BTC pipeline construction suspended

Work has been suspended on the controversial Baku - Tbilisi - Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline after intervention by the Georgian government.

Construction on the controversial BTC pipeline has been halted after a review of security arrangements

Construction on the controversial BTC pipeline has been halted after a review of security arrangements

Environmental groups have seized on the news and claimed that BP, the company leading the consortium building the pipeline, is in breach of Georgian national law and has failed to obtain the necessary environmental certification to proceed.

The groups allege that Georgian Deputy Environment Minister Zaal Lomtadze told WWF that his ministry sent BP a formal reminder on July 12 that the company must apply for construction permits for the Borjomi region - a national park whose bisection by the pipeline has long been the subject of fierce opposition by environmentalists.

WWF and Friends of the Earth claim that BP failed to apply for the permits and illegally went ahead with construction for more than a week before the Georgian government intervened.

"BP has been caught red handed," said James Leaton of WWF. "They have made all kinds of promises about how the BTC project would boost Georgian sovereignty, yet as soon as Georgian law no longer fits their schedule, they violate it without hesitation."

These claims were rejected by BP. A spokesman for the oil giant told edie that work had been halted because the Georgian government wanted to review and evaluate "security arrangements." He said that BP held all necessary environmental certification, and had done so since 2002.

Work had only been suspended on the 17km stretch of pipeline because the Georgian government wanted to review security arrangements, such as fitting extra stop-valves in case of leakage, and several other measures, he said, adding that work would resume very quickly.

He also told edie that Lord Browne, BP's Chief Executive, had recently met with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and received assurances that work would not be held up.

The pipeline, which is to run approximately 1,100 miles, from Baku in Azerbaijan, through Tbilisi in Georgia, to Ceyhan in Turkey, has been opposed by groups in all three countries.

Complaints have been made about a lack of consultation with the public, a lack of investment in communities affected, and a lack of concern for health and safety of the workers and the wider environment.

Despite these complaints, the US$3.6 billion project is around 70% complete and should be finished in 2005.

By David Hopkins



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