WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has called on the Biden administration to brief Congress on its steps to stop a controversial Russian natural-gas pipeline to Europe amid concerns it is nearing completion.
In a February 17 letter addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, four members of the House of Representatives requested information on the status of the Nord Stream 2 project, which is believed to be around 90 percent complete.
The lawmakers also said they wanted to know if Germany had made any proposal to halt or water down U.S. sanctions targeting the pipeline. The U.S. sanctions against Nord Stream have become a thorn in the side of American-German relations, with Berlin continuing to back the project.
The Financial Times reported on February 16 that German ministers were considering a proposal under which the United States would drop sanctions and permit the project to be completed in exchange for a snapback mechanism that would allow Berlin to shut off Nord Stream 2 if Russia put pressure on Ukraine.
The United States and several European countries oppose the pipeline -- which will reroute Russian natural-gas exports under the Baltic Sea, circumventing Ukraine -- on the grounds that it strengthens the Kremlin’s grip on the European energy market and deprives Kyiv of billions of dollars in much needed transportation fees.
A first round of U.S. sanctions specifically targeting vessels laying the pipeline forced a European contractor to halt work, delaying the launch of Nord Stream 2 by at least a year.
Congress last year passed the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Clarification Act (PEESCA) to widen the list of sanctionable services against the project to include providing insurance, reinsurance, pipeline testing, inspection, and certification services.
PEESCA became law on January 1 and its implementation could force more companies out of the $11 billion project and further delay its completion.
“In light of these requirements, we write to request a briefing from the State Department on the Biden administration’s efforts to implement PEESCA,” the lawmakers wrote, pointing out that the administration failed to meet a February 16 deadline to deliver a mandatory report on any sanctionable activity related to Nord Stream 2.
The letter named 15 Russian companies that may be involved in sanctionable work.
It was signed by Mike McCall (California), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Adam Kinzinger (Republican-Illinois), Ruben Gallego (Democrat-Arizona), and Marcy Kaptur (Democrat-Ohio).