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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Greenpeace Says Transneft Is Ignoring Pipeline Order

Greenpeace accused state pipeline operator Transneft on Tuesday of ignoring the government's ecological concerns by pressing ahead with plans to build a Pacific oil pipeline around Lake Baikal, the world's largest freshwater lake.

The Natural Resources Ministry in June ordered a halt to surveying work for the oil pipeline over ecological fears. Conservationists say the project would pose a serious ecological threat if a spill were to occur.

"Transneft is continuing to plan this route; they are ignoring not only us but a government agency," said Mikhail Krendlin of Greenpeace Russia. Ecologists are lobbying for an alternative route 100 kilometers from Baikal.

Transneft has halted surveying work but has continued to plan for the start of construction, which a company official last month said could begin in December. The pipeline, which would follow the route of a railway around the lake, would be less than 1 kilometer from Baikal's shore in certain sections.

Transneft vice president Sergei Grigoriyev defended the existing route as ecologically safe and said proximity to the railway was key to the project, as it would allow the company to easily bring construction workers and equipment to the isolated area.

Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of the Federal Service for the Inspection of Natural Resources Use, said Tuesday that his service shared Greenpeace's concerns and that Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev would meet with Transneft over the issue. The government is soon due to reach a decision on whether to approve Transneft's preferred route.