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Pipeline Politics
Polish Regulators Stymie Nord Stream 2

Polish regulators yesterday struck what many seem to have initially hoped was a fatal blow to the Nord Stream 2 project, a proposed gas pipeline that shadows the existing Nord Stream project, linking Northern Europe to Russia’s vast supplies while notably bypassing Ukraine. The Wall Street Journal:

An application with Poland’s competition authority to form a joint venture to build a pipeline called Nord Stream 2 was withdrawn in the face of opposition from Warsaw, where the deal was seen as giving Russia greater sway over Polish energy supplies.

That leaves Russia’s state-owned PAO Gazprom as the project’s sole operator, potentially robbing it of the political support that big European partners like Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Germany’s Wintershall AG provided.

Poland hailed the decision. “This will stop the deal,” Marek Niechial, the president of Poland’s antitrust authority, said on Friday.

The project has strong backing in Germany, and apart from Poland has strong detractors in the Baltics and other Central and Eastern European nations. Critics worry that the pipeline unnecessarily undermines Europe’s energy independence by further tying it to Russia. Nord Stream 2 would double Nord Stream’s current capacity.

The pushback by Nord Stream 2 AG, the holding company wholly owned by Russia’s Gazprom, was swift. Press release:

This decision does not affect implementation of the project, which continues as planned.

The decision only affects the acquisition of the existing project company’s shares by Gazprom’s Western partners. The current ownership of shares in Nord Stream 2 AG remains unchanged. The implementation schedule of the Nord Stream 2 project also remains unchanged. The prospective shareholders will continue their close cooperation and their mutual efforts towards strengthening the security of the European gas supply.

A spokesman for Shell told the WSJ that the oil giant is “considering other ways we can contribute,” adding that the project is “very important” to the company. What these “other ways” will be are still anybody’s guess, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. And with Russia and Germany both still pushing hard, there seem to be little shortage of will behind this project.

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