SEA LAUNCH PROMISES KIRIBATI AN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STUDY

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TARAWA, Kiribati (April 9, 1999 - PACNEWS)---The Kiribati Government has announced that Sea Launch, the company behind the launching of commercial satellites into orbit from a floating oil platform off Kiribati waters, has reportedly agreed to conduct a project environmental impact study.

This was confirmed by Kiribati’s Secretary for Information, Communication and Transport, Taakei Taoaba.

Taoaba said Sea Launch, a consortium involving Boeing and Russian, Ukranian and Norwegian companies, agreed to the study request made by the Kiribati Government at a recent meeting in Hawai‘i.

Kiribati’s main concern, he said, is the environmental impact of the project, on both the ocean and the atmosphere.

The Government, Taoaba emphasized, wants to ensure that the people and environment of Kiribati are safe from any possible accidents that might result from the launches near the equator.

According to Taoaba, Kiritimati (Christmas) Islanders, in the Northern Line Islands group, are particularly concerned because of their very close proximity to the actual launch site.

Sea Launch carried out a demonstration firing of a dummy satellite from the floating oil rig, 800 kilometers (480 miles) southeast of the island and just outside Kiribati waters, last month.

The joint venture company has invested about $US 504 million in the first ever commercial marine-based launch system.

Last month the environmental group Greenpeace called for a stop to further launches of commercial rockets from the floating facility until the company completes and evaluates a project environmental impact study.

Greenpeace Pacific spokesperson Samantha Magick said leaders of the South Pacific Forum had called for a comprehensive environmental assessment report on the Sea Launch proposal.

"We believe consultation with the Pacific region (about the project) has been inadequate. Details of the extent of environmental assessment programs have been sketchy. We simply don’t know the impact of the program on the Pacific," she said.

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