BERLIN (AP) — German authorities gave permission Friday for work to resume on a subsea pipeline bringing natural gas from Russia that’s been the target of U.S. sanctions threats.
The decision by the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency can be appealed, meaning there could be another halt to the construction on the Nord Stream 2 project, which has drawn major criticism from the United States, some other European countries and environmental groups.
The U.S. government has argued that the Baltic Sea pipeline would make Europe more dependent on Russian gas and hurt European energy security. The Kremlin has responded by accusing Washington of trying to promote sales of its own liquefied natural gas.
The pipeline project was also opposed by the administration of President Barack Obama, and German officials have said they don’t expect significant changes in U.S. policy when President-elect Joe Biden takes over from President Donald Trump.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters on Friday, however, that he did expect high-level talks with the incoming administration about the possibility of new U.S. sanctions on companies involved in the pipeline project.
“Naturally we want to talk about this topic with our colleagues in Washington as soon as the new administration is in office,” he said.
Maas added that he did not know whether the companies involved in building the pipeline had plans to immediately resume work following the Maritime and Hydrographic Agency’s ruling.
Russian state-controlled natural gas company Gazprom has positioned a ship to resume work on the multibillion pipeline, which was suspended after a Swiss firm pulled its vessels out of the project amid threats of U.S. sanctions. Because the Russian ship is of a different type than the Swiss vessels, Germany had to issue fresh authorization.
Gazprom says 6% of the pipeline, or about 150 kilometers (93 miles), remains to be completed.
Environmental activists have expressed anger at a recent move by the government of Germany’s Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state to protect companies involved in the pipeline project from U.S. sanctions by creating a foundation for “climate protection.”
“Nord Stream 2 is a geopolitical mistake and must be stopped,” Green party lawmaker Katrin Goering-Eckardt said. “We need investments in real climate protection and renewable energy instead of a sham foundation whose chairman will be appointed by Nord Stream 2.”
The company, which is wholly owned by Gazprom, declined to say exactly when construction would resume.