Environmentalists appeal to halt «Sakhalin 1» project before any formal court ruling
In October 2008 a number of NGOs which have historically been partner organizations of WWF-Russia filed a lawsuit, appealing the positive verdict of the State environmental appraisal for project “Sakahlin-1”. The list of these appealing parties includes such entities, as Legal Center “Rodnik”, “Sakhalin Environmental Watch”, Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East, Union of Sakhalin’s indigenous peoples and others.
The defendant in this case is the Federal Service for Environmental, Technological and Nuclear Supervision (“Rostekhnadzor”), as this particular federal entity officially passed the positive verdict of the State environmental appraisal.
At the January 11th hearing the Court did not formally start any formal consideration of the case, as all lawsuit participants had not had sufficient time for the thorough review of a large documentation volume that Rostekhnadzor and the case’s third party - “Exxon Neftegaz Ltd.” have provided on Court’s request. For this reason the case hearing was postponed until a later date of February 10th, 2009.
«The formal case consideration has again been postponed and it is becoming more obvious that the issue of legal compliance of the positive verdict of the State environmental appraisal requires a more thorough investigation” – according to Ekaterina Khmeleva, WWF environmental law advisor.
According to the information which has been obtained by the environmental NGOs in summer 2008, there have been recorded some significant changes in the distribution of the Western Pacific grey whales with the numbers’ decline particularly in the affected area of the Piltun spit. Possible reasons for these changes, among other matters, can be activities, related to the Sakhalin Island oil and gas projects. This tendency could result from the massive ram in piles (pilling) on the spit which “Exxon Neftegaz Ltd” carried out during the summer and fall seasons in 2008, as whales tend to be vulnerable towards the negative acoustic effects.
«Because these facts, we believe, “Sakhalin 1” project must immediately halt its pipeline construction across Piltun Bay, before the formal Court consideration. It is also important to identify the exact reasons for the changes in the whales’ distribution observed in the summer 2008” – says Alexey Knizhnikov, head of the WWF-Russia Program on environmental police of the oil and gas sector . – Additionally, we are also sending letters to the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and two main shareholders of the“Sakhalin-1” project – Russian oil company “Rosneft” and US headquarters of “ExxonMobil“.