Russian environmental groups have today launched a legal challenge against a consortium led by U.S. oil and gas giant Exxon, for threatening critically endangered whales in the far east of the country.
Last year, Russian authorities gave Exxon the green light to build a pipeline across a lagoon on Sakhalin Island that is a crucial feeding ground for the world’s last surviving colony of Western Gray Whales.
Speaking at a press conference in Moscow, Ekaterina Gretchuchkina, chief lawyer for Russian environment group Rodnik, said, “We have decided to challenge in court the positive findings of the state experts.” The NGO has filed the lawsuit at a Moscow district court along with pressure group Sakhalin Environment Watch and an association of indigenous people.
The move follows months of behind the scenes wrangling over the future of the disputed project. Earlier this year, WWF sent a letter to Russia’s Natural Resources Minister, Yuri Trutnev, demanding that the project be halted. This was followed by a joint scientific report from WWF, Greenpeace and the International Fund for Animal Welfare demanding at the very least that the route of the pipeline be changed.
The report concluded that there were only 130 Western Gray Whales surviving worldwide, including only around 20 females able to reproduce. The colony gathers in the area for four months annually to feed and build up crucial fat deposits to help it survive through the rest of the year.
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