Baltic pipeline ‘could damage environment’

Sweden's Environmental Protection Agency on Friday said alternative routes should be investigated for a proposed natural gas pipeline that German and Russian companies want to build in the Baltic Sea.

The agency, tasked with determining if the pipeline complies with Swedish environmental legislation, urged the link’s constructor, Nord Stream, to carry out comprehensive tests on the planned route’s effects on marine wildlife.

“(Nord Stream) should investigate how the structure and its foundations would cope with the pipeline being taken out of use as well as the effects of all potential environmental conditions such as fire or collision with a ship,” the agency said in a statement.

Nord Stream’s environmental impact report and requested route for the pipleline is due to be delivered to the Swedish government and other governments through whose waters the pipeline would pass in the autumn.

Under current plans the pipeline will be laid close to environmentally sensitive areas off the Swedish coast, the agency said.

“Alternatives to the proposed route for the pipeline should be investigated,” the agency said.

Construction of the pipeline could disturb heavy metals present in the sediment and chemical weapons dumped in the Baltic Sea, agency spokesman John stroem told AFP.

On a visit to Germany in January, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt raised concerns over the negative environmental impact that the pipeline could have on the Baltic Sea.

In 2005 Russian gas giant Gazprom and German firms BASF and E.ON signed a deal to build the 1,200-kilometre (740-mile) natural gas pipeline underneath the Baltic Sea. The line is due to come onstream in 2010.

Gazprom insists the pipeline is ecologically sound.

But Poland and the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have all voiced concern about the environmental risks involved.