Accident on the ESPO Oil Pipeline Should Not Lead to New Catastrophes
Security personnel from the Lensk pipeline operator «Vostoknefteprovod» discovered an oil leak while patrolling the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline on January 20. The oil leak occurred at the 839-mile mark along the pipeline, approximately 19 miles from the city Lensk.
Transneft estimates that 2,200 barrels of oil spilled, creating a slick 1.2 miles long and 3-32 feet wide. The oil has contaminated snow and soil across a 215,278-foot area, pooling up to 4 inches deep in some areas. Other sources indicate that the amount of spilled oil may have been greater.
The Lensk District Committee for Emergency Situations met to discuss measures to clean up the spill. The Committee declared that as of Jauary 20, the entire district is under emergency status with priority access to local regulatory agency and the Lensk Division of the Russian Unified Emergency Rescue Service resources. The environmental prosecutor's office and the Russian Natural Resource Use Oversight Agency are currently investigating the causes and circumstances surrounding the spill. The vice-president of Transneft has traveled out to the site of the spill.
WWF maintains that a spill of this size on the newly-launched ESPO pipeline indicates that some serious errors remain in the project's environmental protection system.
«Oversight agencies should prevent the use of poor construction practices and low-quality materials while the project is still going through the expert review process (including the enviornmental expert review), but Transneft used its administrative resources to push the project through the reviews. It is only around Lake Baikal and Privoznaya Bay that the public was able to oppose the company's onslight,» says WWF Oil & Gas Environmental Policy Officer Aleksey Knizhnokov. «Now we can confidently say that we were right to move the pipeline away from Lake Baikal and Zemlya Leoparda (a protected habitat area for the critically endangered Amur Leopard)».
The second arm of the ESPO (from Skovorodino to the Pacific Ocean) will be built through a zone that supports incredibly valuable biodiversity (the Amur River, Siberian Tiger habitat, etc.). Given that the launch of the first arm of the ESPO demonstrated that the project is not environmentally safe, WWF insists on a public investigation into the cause of the accident and a reevaluation of the second arm's project documentation in which all concerned parties may participate.
«Otherwise the Year of the Tiger will bring the next oil spill to this endangered cat's backyard,» Knizhnikov adds.