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German court rejects appeal against construction of Nord Stream 2 pipeline

Staff Writer | July 20, 2018
The Federal Constitutional Court on Thursday rejected a legal appeal to halt the ongoing construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in Germany.
Nord Stream 2
Energy   The Karlsruhe-based judges ruled against the German Nature Conservation Union
The Karlsruhe-based judges ruled against the German Nature Conservation Union (NABU) which had sought to prevent the completion of the energy project on the grounds that it would cause severe environmental damage to the marine ecosystem of the Baltic sea. The underwater pipeline is scheduled to transport up to 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia to Germany from 2019 onwards.

NABU expressed its disappointment at the news of the verdict on Wednesday and reiterated its criticism of Nord Stream 2. Leif Miller, the president of the environmental group, argued that there were already first signs of resulting environmental degradation as evidenced by a leakage back in May.

Having failed to achieve an immediate halt to the project at the Greifswald regional administrative court before filing a constitutional complaint, NABU announced that it would assess further legal options to challenge Nord Stream 2. A spokesperson for the Greifswald court told the press that it would take the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court on Thursday into account when deciding when to schedule a regular hearing of the case.

A spokesperson for Nord Stream 2 welcomed the ruling and emphasized that construction of the 1,200-km-long pipeline was going ahead as planned. The international syndicate of energy producer backing the project want to begin laying the first pipes in the course of July.

Aside from Denmark, all Baltic sea countries affected by the pipeline have already granted regulatory approval to the construction of Nord Stream 2. So far, only partial approval has been obtained in Russia, although experts widely anticipate that local authorities will not seek to obstruct construction given the prominent role played by the state-owned energy company Gazprom in the project.

The United States and some Eastern European countries, including Ukraine and Poland, have repeatedly attacked Nord Stream 2 as allegedly being politically-motivated and devoid of economic value. Nevertheless, German business leaders remain steadfast in their support of the pipeline which was first proposed in 1995.

In response to criticism of the project by U.S. President Donald Trump, the East Commission of the German Economy ("Ost-Auschuss") recently warned Berlin against backtracking from Nord stream 2.

"Nord Stream 2 is a project of European energy companies based on a clear economic calculation: The routes to the new production areas in North Siberia are shorter and the transport costs are lower in the long-term than holds for existing routes via Ukraine," a spokesperson for the organization said.

The East Commission added that private sector actors had hereby acted on the assumption that the national governments involved would stand by the legal guarantees offered to businesses when the project was unveiled.

As of this year, German businesses have invested more than 4 billion euros in the construction of Nord Stream 2. Amongst others, the German energy company Uniper and the BASF subsidiary Wintershall have made large contributions to the financing of Nord Stream 2.