Ministry calls Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline study illegal

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Moscow, September 29 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Natural Resources Ministry said Thursday that the feasibility study for the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline project, which is to link Eastern Siberian deposits with the Pacific port of Nakhodka, was illegal because parameters for research had been changed after being approved.

"The work that the feasibility study covers, particularly the construction of a section of the 800 meters off the coastline of Lake Baikal, was not previously approved by the State Environmental Appraisal Committee," the ministry said.

The committee already approved documents that stated that the pipeline would be built beyond the boundaries of Baikal's drainage basin, which prompted the government to allow the further engineering and construction of the pipeline.

However, the law on environmental appraisal stipulates that if a feasibility study is amended after being approved, the committee's conclusion becomes void and a new appraisal is needed.

The ministry said if the pipeline was built within the basin, the lake's ecosystem might suffer serious damage in the event of oil spills. Lake Baikal is the oldest and deepest lake in the world that UNESCO declared a world heritage site in 1996.

The ministry also said the location of an oil terminal had not been chosen and that the issue must be solved at this stage in accordance with environmental requirements and the relevant documents submitted to the environmental appraisal committee.

The 4,188-kilometer Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline will cost $11.5 billion and will have a targeted annual capacity of 80 million metric tons. The first segment of the pipeline will be ready by 2008.

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