Finns Call for Another Route Study

HELSINKI -- Finland insists the Gazprom-led Nord Stream consortium conduct a thorough environmental impact study of an alternative, southern route for its planned gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea, the country's environment ministry said Monday.

Nord Stream plans to start building the 1,200-kilometer gas pipeline to Germany in mid-2009 and begin deliveries in early 2011.

While the consortium aims to route the pipeline through the Finnish economic zone, environmentalists have been campaigning for it to consider the more southern route, saying the seabed is flatter and would need less work and therefore less disruption to the seabed.

In comments sent to authorities in Denmark, Germany, Russia and Sweden, the ministry said: "[A broader study of the alternatives] would ensure that sufficient material on the environmental impacts is available for decision making and that the environment is taken into account." The ministry said Nord Stream had told it in December that it did not plan to carry out a study for the southern route, which goes around the Russian island of Gogland.

The consortium has already said environmental demands from countries around the Baltic Sea, some of which have doubts about the project, could push up the costs of the plan. "We will take all feedback into consideration," Nord Stream spokesman Sebastian Sass said, adding that the firm had examined the southern route but had not found a suitable passage for the pipeline.

Russia is planning a conservation area near Gogland, and there already are subsea cables there, while it is a main route for ships and therefore unsuitable, Nord Stream says.