Putin, Tagansky court and financial problems of oil companies can save grey whales from “Sakhalin-1” project
WWF Russia, International Foundation for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Greenpeace Russia and Sakhalin Environment Watch ask the prime-minister to “create a committee on the investigation of the negative impact of Sakhalin oil-and-gas projects on the Western Pacific grey whale population”, and to impose moratorium on the development of oil-and-gas projects, dangerous for the whales, before the end of the working sessions of the committee. Also, environmentalists appeal to Vladimir Putin to help with the early creation of specially protected natural areas in the grey whale’s habitat near the Piltun spit. Today ecologico-economical justification of the specially protected natural area creation is submitted for approval in governmental bodies.
Shortly before that, “Sakhalin-1” project operator announced that they had to halt exploration works on Odoptu and Arkutun-Dagi oil-gas fields, as the authorized governmental body hadn’t approved the work programme and budget estimates of the project for 2008 and 2009. The pipeline between Odoptu drilling platform on the Piltun spit and the island, in the eyes of the environmentalists, is dangerous for the whales, as, according to the existing project, the pipeline should be built across Piltun bay which is crucial for the preservation of the last 130 species of the Western Pacific grey whale population.
According to WWF information, works on the freezing-out of the ice dam for a construction of the pipeline from Odoptu began this winter. “However the latest arguments on the state of the grey whale population and the messages on the halting of the “Sakhalin-1” project on Odoptu gives hope that the pipeline construction across Piltun bay will be stopped”, - says Alexey Knizhnikov, head of the WWF-Russia Program on environmental police of the oil and gas sector.
On 9 February International Scientific Council on grey whales published a report which shows the decline in numbers of this rare species in the sites of Sakhalin offshore projects. 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 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. Scientists consider it necessary to “impose moratorium on all types of production activities, in coastal and marine zones, that can have an impact on grey whales population…”
In November 2008 the NGOs filed a lawsuit against “Rostekhnadzor” (Federal Service for Environmental, Technological and Nuclear Supervision) in Tagansky court of Moscow. Since then, they have been appealing the positive verdict of the State environmental appraisal for project “Sakahlin-1”. Next hearing is held on 5 March 2009.