Permitting Process Enters Decisive Phase
Obtaining permits is a crucial step in building any major infrastructure project. But this process is particularly complex for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline because construction and operation permits are required from the five countries through whose waters it passes: Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany.
In addition, the United Nations' Espoo Convention on the Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context requires signatories to inform and consult with each other about projects with potential environmental effects. The Espoo Convention is the context in which these countries must brief the other potentially affected neighbouring countries about the project. Concerns raised by these countries are then taken into consideration during the permitting of the project.
Notification of "Parties of Origin"
Nord Stream 2 officially announces its intention to build a pipeline in the Baltic Sea, passing through the waters of Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany (“Parties of Origin”). These five countries, along with neighbouring Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland (“Affected Parties”) all agree to participate in the Espoo process.
September 2015 - February 2017
Nord Stream 2 conducts numerous meetings with all nine countries to ensure that the Espoo Report will thoroughly address their individual concerns.
Publication of the Espoo Report
Nord Stream 2 publishes its Espoo Report, an exhaustive environmental impact assessment of the project. Stakeholders in the affected countries are requested to respond with any comments or concerns about the project by the end of June 2017.
April 2017 - July 2017
Authorities within the Parties of Origin hold public hearings and international consultations with Affected Parties. Simultaneously, they review the national Environmental Impact Reports submitted by Nord Stream 2. After the company addresses any concerns that arise, all permits are expected to be issued in time for construction to begin in early 2018.
To decide whether to grant permits, the relevant authorities and the public need to be thoroughly informed about its potential impact in their region. It’s a multi-phase undertaking, founded on the extensive knowledge and experience from the successful construction and subsequent operation of the existing Nord Stream pipeline. The process involves years of detailed studies and documentation, comprehensive public hearings, and answering thousands of related inquiries.
In April 2017, the permitting process reached a key stage with the company's publication of the so-called "Espoo Report", a transboundary environmental impact assessment based on extensive national studies conducted by Nord Stream 2.
"The 765-page report was published in 10 languages simultaneously – a significant effort by our team of experts, given the scope of the document," says Nord Stream 2's Head of Permitting Simon Bonnell. "It is a holistic compilation of the results of detailed environmental studies of the Baltic Sea conducted over many years."
Authorities in all of the Baltic Sea States will subsequently review the report and organise public participation in their discussion of the project, which is why it was also important to include a Map Atlas and a Non-Technical Summary for non-expert readers. Available for download on the Nord Stream 2 website in all languages of the Baltic Sea region and English, these documents provide maximum transparency to ensure that interested parties are well-informed.
"National authorities will collect comments from the public, authorities and NGOs and subsequently liaise with Nord Stream 2 regarding these comments so that we can provide answers to any outstanding issues," says Mr. Bonnell. "We have been in intensive dialogue with the authorities throughout the region in order to understand and take account of their concerns in the design, proposed routing, installation and future operation of the pipeline."
Mr. Bonnell, who was also involved in the permitting process for the existing Nord Stream pipeline, says he is confident that permits will be received on time to begin construction in early 2018.
"All countries involved can build on the experience gained with the consultation process for the Nord Stream project, which became a blueprint for major transboundary infrastructure projects," he says. "The permitting process for Nord Stream 2 will be a challenging project phase, but we are well-prepared to handle it."