Shell breaches financing conditions for Sakhalin again



Posted on 29 November 2006  | 
A report recently released by the Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel has revealed that Shell's Sakhalin construction activities in 2006 clearly breached three of the panel's recommendations. The recommendations relate to the provision of adequate protection for critically endangered western Pacific gray whales that feed adjacent to the offshore construction area. The expert whale panel was set up to help protect Sakhalin's last 100 gray whales.

Robert Napier, WWF-UK Chief Executive, said: "Shell has ignored the expert panel's recommendations and exposed the whales to excessive noise. This is yet another breach of EBRD environmental criteria, crucial to the Bank agreeing to support Sakhalin. When will the Bank move to protect its own reputation by disassociating itself from Sakhalin II?"

The report bemoans the lack of data provided by Shell and concludes that even limited analysis has shown that there was an effect on the whales by displacing them offshore. There is concern that this could reduce their access to food. However, Shell continues to make unfounded claims that their operations are causing no impact on the whale population.

Earlier this year the EBRD stated in their consultation that: "If that panel (the Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel) does not operate or is not formed and its recommendations are not taken on board by the company (Shell), then this project does not go to our Board."

In May 2004 the UK's then Environment Minister, Elliot Morley MP, said: "Let me re-emphasise that the Government is still considering the project [Sakhalin] and will only agree to support it if we are satisfied that, amongst other things, the best scientific advice is being followed and that the risks to the whales are minimised."

The UK Government is considering funding the troubled project through the Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD), which held a consultation earlier this year on the proposed funding.

The panel continue to be concerned about Shell's ability to respond in the harsh Sakhalin conditions, especially winter sea ice. The scientists expect to see measures that are sufficient to protect western gray whales and their habitat, with a higher standard necessary because of the population's vulnerability and endangered status.

James Leaton, WWF oil and gas officer, said: "Shell has blamed the lack of the required monitoring of whales during the noisiest construction activities on bad road conditions that prevented access. How does the company expect to respond to an oil spill in this region if it cannot even get whale monitoring teams there?"
Map of the Sakhalin region
Map of the Sakhalin region.
© WWF Enlarge

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