WASHINGTON -- Denmark has granted Russia’s state-controlled energy company, Gazprom, permission to build a controversial gas export pipeline through Danish waters.
The October 30 approval removes the last major regulatory hurdle for Gazprom to complete its 1,230 kilometer Nord Stream 2 pipeline along the Baltic Sea floor from Russia to Germany.
The Danish decision puts greater pressure on the U.S. Congress to quickly pass a sanctions bill to halt the project before it is completed.
Washington has opposed the project over concern it will increase Europe’s dependence on Russian energy, boost the Kremlin’s coffers for military adventures, and hurt Ukraine.
President Donald Trump has recommended that Germany import U.S. liquefied natural gas instead.
The Danish Energy Agency (DEA) said in a statement that it approved a 147-kilometer southeastern pipeline route proposed by Nord Stream 2, which is owned by Gazprom.
The DEA had been studying several proposals by the company since April 2017.
During a visit to Budapest, Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed the Danish decision, telling reporters that the Scandinavian country had "shown itself to be a responsible international partner, protecting its interests and its sovereignty, as well as interests of its main partners in Europe."
Nord Stream 2 is to carry 55 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas annually to Germany, doubling the country's imports from Russia.
The company expects to complete the project -- which is more than 70 percent built -- in the coming months.
Russia has historically exported natural gas through Ukraine, which currently earns from $2 billion to $3 billion a year in transportation fees, a significant amount of money for its struggling economy.
But Moscow has sought to reroute European gas exports around Ukraine via offshore pipelines amid worsening relations with Kyiv, which is pushing for closer ties to the West.
'Time Is Running Out'
The United States is seeking to block the project with members of both the Senate and the House introducing two separate bills to sanction companies involved with the construction of Nord Stream 2.
The bills must be reconciled and passed by both chambers of Congress and signed by Trump to become law.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July overwhelmingly passed a bill to sanction vessels helping lay the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Senator Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas), who introduced the sanctions bill, said in September that it was an effective measure because there are only a few companies in the world that have the technology to lay deep-sea pipes.
Cruz's enshrined bill has yet to be brought to the Senate floor for a hearing, while the House bill has yet to pass committee hearings.
U.S. congressional members are still holding out hope for the bill's passage, but Cruz said "time is running out to stop Nord Stream 2."
"In a few short months, Russia will have completed its natural gas pipeline – putting President Putin in a position to further expand his military, exploit our European allies, and threaten U.S. energy security," the senator said in a statement sent by his office to RFE/RL.
"I continue to urge the rest of our colleagues in the Senate to quickly pass our bipartisan bill, halt this pipeline, and deprive President Putin of the resources to fuel his expansionism and military aggression," he added.
Ukrainian officials last week traveled to Capitol Hill to again lobby for the proposed sanctions legislation.