Environmental NGOs Take Aim at EU's Natural Gas Pipeline Plans

The proposed EastMed pipeline is among the targets of the petition (INEA)

Published Jun 7, 2022 9:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

Environmental NGO Friends of the Earth Europe and two coalition partners have launched a legal action against EU efforts to source natural gas from non-Russian suppliers, citing climate effects.

The EU is reliant on Russian pipeline gas to sustain its economy, and its member states - particularly in northern Europe - have few alternatives with current infrastructure. Sourcing gas from other suppliers is a top EU policy priority, because payments for Russian gas help fuel the invasion of Ukraine. In addition, depending upon Russian decisionmakers for energy has become a strategic vulnerability: Already, Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom has cut off supplies to utilities in Poland, Denmark and the Netherlands for refusing a demand to pay in rubles. 

Against this backdrop, gas infrastructure has taken on new importance. The European Commission's REPowerEU energy strategy calls for the development of dozens of natural gas supply projects - LNG terminals, subsea pipelines and other developments - to help diversify the EU's energy mix in the near term. These would be partly financed using funds attached to the"Projects of Common Interest" priority energy infrastructure list. 

30 of these projects have drawn Friends of the Earth's scrutiny, and the group has filed a "request for internal review" in opposition. This legal petition requires a reply from the European Commission within 22 weeks, and it could result in a "judgement clarifying how the EU should take the climate impacts of infrastructure into account."

The projects targeted include the EastMed pipeline, a proposed subsea gas line connecting Israel's offshore fields to Cyprus and Greece. The U.S. withdrew its support from the project early this year after Turkish opposition, and its future is uncertain. 

"The EastMed pipeline is a disaster for communities and the climate. It is not in the interests of local people in the region who will bear the costs of fossil fuel lock-in, and the harm to the ecologically-sensitive Mediterranean Sea," asserted Natasa Ioannou, an activist with Friends of the Earth Cyprus. "EU funding must focus on supporting projects that implement just, fair, safe, and renewable energy solutions."

The NGO pointed to a recent study by Ember, Bellona, E3G and RAP that outlined a route to ending European reliance on Russian gas by 2025 - solely through energy-efficiency measures and massive investments in renewables, without any new gas import infrastructure.