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Setback for Shell as whale expert quits over Sakhalin

The Observer (UK): Setback for Shell as whale expert quits over Sakhalin

‘There is much that Shell could do to make this project safer. They know it, we all know it and the world will know it if we, as scientists, take a stand.’: “Steiner’s comments will be a severe blow to Shell which, with Russian energy giant Gazprom, holds a majority stake in this important but very problematic project. This summer Shell said costs on Sakhalin-2 may be double original estimates, ballooning to $20bn.”

Sunday 11 Sept 2005

Nick Mathiason

Sunday September 11, 2005

Royal Dutch Shell’s $20 billion Sakhalin-2 gas and oil project off the east coast of Russia faces a further setback this weekend.

A leading whale expert has resigned in protest from the Independent Scientific Review Panel set up by Shell to monitor the effect the project was having on the endangered western Pacific grey whales.

Earlier this year, following pressure from environmentalists, Shell changed the route of a pipeline which could have led to the extinction of the whales.

But drilling work and the construction of a platform mean the whales are still in danger. In a resignation letter to fellow scientists, Professor Rick Steiner of the University of Alaska, wrote: ‘There is much that Shell could do to make this project safer. They know it, we all know it and the world will know it if we, as scientists, take a stand.’

Steiner’s comments will be a severe blow to Shell which, with Russian energy giant Gazprom, holds a majority stake in this important but very problematic project.

This summer Shell said costs on Sakhalin-2 may be double original estimates, ballooning to $20bn.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is expected to decide whether to lend money to the project within weeks: its involvement is vital to Shell as it will persuade other banks to lend money.

But as the EBRD makes up its mind, construction workers on the project are accused of destroying salmon spawning grounds essential to the livelihoods of Sakhalin islanders. Shell denies this. Earlier this summer a Russian court ruled that Shell built a platform illegally.

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