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Ecologists suspend Exxon’s project threatening gray whales on Sakhalin

January 21, 2014, 10:13 UTC+3 YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK
Exxon’s Russian subsidiary intended to build a temporary quay in northern Sakhalin within the framework of the Sakhalin 1 oil development project
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YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, January 21. /ITAR-TASS/. Ecologists managed to suspend a project of the U.S. oil company Exxon’s Russian subsidiary Exxon Neftegaz Ltd. to build a temporary quay in northern Sakhalin within the framework of the Sakhalin 1 oil development project.

The project threatens safety of gray whales and other marine mammals, the head of the non-governmental organization Sakhalin Environment Watch, Dmitry Lisitsyn, told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.

“While building this quay in the Piltun Bay in the north of the Sakhalin Island Exxon Neftegaz Ltd. decided to carry out cargo shipment operations through offshore strips of the Sea of Okhotsk that are most vital for gray whales,” Lisitsyn said. “This will exert a negative impact on these Red Book species and on a unique seal rookery, Sakhalin’s biggest one.”

The state environmental inspection assessed the project. “This action was initiative by our colleagues from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF),” Lisitsyn said. “Joint efforts helped to prove that a noise emission area exceeding the safe threshold for gray whales reaches a radius of 20 kilometers and not 6 kilometers as the company asserted.”

Head of WWF Russia environmental policy program, Alexei Knizhnikov, said that in 2013, Sakhalin Energy, an operator of the Sakhalin 2 project, considered ecologists’ opinion and abandoned its plans for building a new oil rig in a feeding area of gray whales until 2020.

“We hope that to preserve gray whales the only right decision on the Sakhalin 1 enlargement project will be taken — delivery of cargoes by land,” he added.

Ecologists propose to use the port of Moskalvo in northern Sakhalin. In this case it will take around 110 kilometers to deliver cargoes through existing roads.

“In 2008, Exxon had already delivered such cargoes to the Piltun spit and successfully used land routes,” Lisitsyn said. “The American company’s attempt to use the sea route this time meets neither environmental requirements nor socio-economic interests of the Sakhalin region.”

The state environmental inspection on Exxon’s project will be extended for another two months.

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