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Planet Ark: Russian Oil Project to Be Vetted for Whale Threat

Planet Ark: Russian Oil Project to Be Vetted for Whale Threat

“the International Whaling Commission last month warned energy exploration could kill off the 100 or so remaining gray whales on the oil-rich shelf near Russia’s Pacific coast”

SWITZERLAND: August 30, 2004

GENEVA – A top environmental group said last week it had agreed to probe an oil and gas project led by Royal Dutch/Shell off the Russian far east coast because of fears it threatens endangered whales.

The World Conservation Union said the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company had requested an independent study into its plans to expand production around Russia’s Sakhalin Island near feeding grounds of the Western Gray Whale. The independent scientific panel is expected to complete the review by the end of November. “Until then, Sakhalin Energy has postponed certain development work,” said the Swiss-based inter-governmental organization.

The union, known as IUCN, said it was guaranteed “full autonomy to ensure the credible, objective review expected.”

Plans for the panel come after the International Whaling Commission last month warned energy exploration could kill off the 100 or so remaining gray whales on the oil-rich shelf near Russia’s Pacific coast and asked for surveys.

Sakhalin Energy aims to build pipelines linking offshore platforms in the multi-billion dollar Sakhalin-2 project to land.

The Western Gray Whales, which appear near Sakhalin Island in summer and withdraw to deeper waters in winter, can only feed from the sea bed. That restricts their feeding ground to within a few kilometers (miles) from the Sakhalin coast – the area where the underwater pipeline is due to be laid.

The Sakhalin venture, which includes Japan’s Mitsui & Co. Ltd. and Mitsubishi Corp, says much of the knowledge about the rare mammals is the result of their research and monitoring programs conducted in the Pacific since 1997.

Shell also plans to build the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas plant near Sakhalin Island by 2006 and start gas shipments in 2007.

REUTERS NEWS SERVICE

http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/26830/story.htm

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