From: Alex Nicholson, Associated Press
Published February 7, 2006 12:00 AM

Russian Environmental Safety Regulator Rejects Eastern Oil Pipeline Route

MOSCOW — Russia's environmental safety regulator has rejected part of a plan for a controversial crude oil pipeline that ecologists have said could threaten the world's biggest freshwater lake.

Proposals for the pipeline from eastern Siberia to the Pacific coast were not in line with environmental legislation, the Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Nuclear Supervision -- known by its Russian abbreviation Rostekhnadzor -- said in a statement posted on its Web site late Friday.

A Rostekhnadzor spokeswoman said by telephone, however, that the decision was only "preliminary" and declined to provide any further details.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace representative Roman Vazhenkov, who monitors the pipeline, said that after consulting with Rostekhnadzor, the service had clarified that only part of the project concerning a Pacific Coast oil terminal had been rejected outright.

"In our opinion the threat that concerned the bay has been removed," he said.

The terminal was to have been built in Perevoznaya bay instead of closer to the port of Nakhodka, a decision that would have directly threatened the habitat of the endangered Amur Tiger.

While an apparent blow for state pipeline monopoly Transneft, Vazhenkov said that Rostekhnadzor had merely extended by 30 days a study of the project's most controversial side, in which the pipeline was slated to pass within less than a mile of Lake Baikal -- a UNESCO protected site and home to 20 percent of the world's fresh water.

Transneft representatives were not immediately available to comment.

The pipeline route, as proposed by Transneft, would run from the town of Tayshet in Siberia's Irkutsk region through Skovorodino in the Amur region to the port of Perevoznaya in the Primorye region on the Pacific coast.

Separately, Russia's Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko said in an interview published Monday in the Vedomosti business daily that tax breaks would be offered to investors developing fields in Eastern Siberia and the Far East that could be used to fill the pipeline.

Source: Associated Press

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