English translation from the official periodical of RAIPON “Мир коренных народов - живая арктика” (Indigenous Peoples’ World - Living Arctic) No. 16, 2005

Public of Buryat Republic opposes oil pipeline close to Baikal Lake

Information Agency “REGNUM”

An oil pipeline exceeding a length of 4,200 kilometers is planned by the stock company “Transneft”. More than 800 km of the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean Pipeline will pass through the Irkutsk Region, from Taishet to the border of the Buryat Republic . An additional 555 km of the pipeline will run north of the Baikal Lake, across the territory of the Severobaikalsk and Muisk Districts of the Buryat Republic − extremely complex engineering conditions due to a very high seismicity, extensive areas of permafrost, and numerous sites of frequent mudflows. The oil pipeline will also traverse the Chita and Amur regions as well as the Khabarovsk and Primorsk territories. About half of the pipeline length is expected to run along the frontier with China .

In Taishet and in Perevoznaya Bay two large transfer pumping stations are planned, and 30 more transitional stations as well as 14 accumulating stations would be constructed along the pipeline. The assumed volume of oil transfer is 80 million tons per year. From the Perevoznaya Bay the pumped oil will be transported further by oil tankers.

According to estimates of the project developers, 50% of the pipeline will be within naturally hazardous zones of flooding, mudflows, avalanches and seismic activity exceeding magnitude 7 on the Richter scale. The entire route is situated within the range of frequent forest fires. The most dangerous part is the section north of the Baikal Lake where earthquakes may reach magnitude 10. In the Irkutsk Region the pipeline would run along the Baikal-Amur railroad, crossing tens of rivers on its way, including rather big ones, such as the Angara , Lena , and Vitim . In the Buryat Republic the pipeline would cross the Upper Angara River , a large tributary of Baikal Lake .

The main question asked by participants at public hearings concerning the proposed East Siberia-Pacific Ocean Pipeline , which took place in Ulan-Ude , was whether Russia is really in need of such a pipeline for transporting crude oil. It is well known that the established oil resources at a global scale will run out within 30 years. It has been questioned whether Siberian oil reserves are large enough to ensure the required oil offtake. Moreover, it is not advantageous for Russia to sell crude oil , taking into account a possible decline of petroleum reserves. Sale of oil-based products such as fuel , motor oil , fuel oil , etc. would be much more profitable. But even if somebody would invest in oil prospecting and production in East Siberia , and it could be shown that there is enough oil to make it worthwhile economically, the question remains whether the government and stock company Transneft would be able to guarantee meeting the requirements of environmental safety while implementing the project.

The participants at the hearings expressed their concerns in this matter. Representatives of public agencies, nature conservation organizations, scientists, journalists, citizens of Ulan-Ude , the Buryat Republic and other regions of the Russian Federation participated in the discussions. There were numerous remarks concerning how the hearings were being carried out and about the information that had been presented by Transneft. Disagreement with the proposed arrangement of the project implementation was registered in the minutes of the hearings.

Several suggestions were offered to the project developers. These included calculating the expediency of delivering oil products to Asian-Pacific countries, and formulating a plan for preventing oil spills at the section of the pipeline going close to Baikal Lake . Preliminary data of an Environmental Impact Assessment that was carried out do not include important information on the impact of the pipeline on the habitat of the last population of unique wildlife like the Far Eastern leopard in the Barsovyy Sanctuary and the Kedrovaya Pad’ Preserve and its impact on the water area of the National Far East Marine Preserve. Impacts of possible accidents on mariculture along the Khasan shoreline were not evaluated either. It was suggested to supplement the Environmental Impact Assessment with these data. Within the Amur Region the route of the pipeline should be changed so that it takes a detour around the Imangra Reserve, without changing the borders of this protected area. The crossover point of the pipeline at the Amur River should also be shifted downstream past the water intake facilities of the city Khabarovsk .

In addition, nothing has been said by the project developers concerning the impact of the pipeline on indigenous peoples’ culture regardless of the fact that in every administrative unit the line will cross residential areas or lands used by indigenous people in other ways. The participants at the public hearings therefore suggested that an Ethnological Impact Assessment of the project be undertaken.

As a result, the participants of public hearings concluded that they could not approve the company’s “Justification of Investments for Building the East Siberia - Pacific Ocean Pipeline”, presented as an Environment Impact Assessment, as it did not contain sufficient data. The public organization Baikal Environmental Wave reported that it was suggested to repeat hearings in those regions of the Buryat Republic where the pipeline is supposed to run.