Conservationists say whales threatened by Sakhalin 2 project

Nov 26, 2003 01:00 AM

US-based conservation groups said they have urged Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) to rigorously review funding the expansion of an oil and gas development project off Sakhalin Island in Russia's Far East which they say threatens a whale habitat. Following similar moves by three bipartisan lawmakers, 11 groups submitted a letter to Ex-Im Bank President Philip Merrill in a bid to protect the western Pacific grey whale, which they say is critically endangered.
The moves came in response to an application by Sakhalin Energy Investment, a consortium led by oil giant Shell and including Japanese trading houses Mitsubishi and Mitsui & Co., for the bank to finance the project's second phase, they said.

The Sakhalin 2 project, launched in 1986, began commercial oil production under the first phase in 1999. Natural gas output is planned for 2006. Total investment is estimated at $ 9 bn to $ 10 bn.
"Among the project's potential impacts, perhaps the most alarming is its imperilment of the critically endangered western Pacific grey whale, a population that has been reduced to about 130 animals," according to the letter the groups publicized over the Internet.

If the consortium has its way, four pipelines would be routed through the whales' feeding grounds and one of the world's largest production plants for LNG would be constructed, resulting in a yearly discharge of more than 500,000 tons of contaminated run-off, they said.
"We believe it is incumbent on Ex-Im Bank, before committing itself financially, to continue to take the hard look at the project's impacts that its environmental policies and US law require," it said. "We believe... funding it would be inconsistent with bank policies and with US law."

The groups consist of the Centre for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, the Earth Island Institute, Environmental Defence, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace USA, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Natural Resources Defence Council, Pacific Environment, Sakhalin Environment Watch, and the World Wildlife Fund.
The lawmakers include congressman Jim Greenwood, a Republican from Pennsylvania.

Source: Kyodo News
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