The tone is now much harsher, Karsten Schneider accuses Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) of a broken promise. Ostensibly, the mayor of Binz on Rügen is fighting for herring. Above all, it is about the interests of the residents and the financially strong real estate investors.
They have been opposing a planned LNG terminal in neighboring Mukran for months. They fear for nature and tourism around the Baltic Sea resort with its long white sandy beaches. Now they are playing for time – and possibly with success.
“The fact that you are now allowing the herring's closed and spawning season to be significantly disrupted is a clear breach of word,” Schneider wrote to Habeck South German newspaper before. At a meeting on April 20, 2023 in Binz, the Minister of Economic Affairs publicly promised that the 50-kilometer-long connection line – through which the natural gas will be transported from the terminal on Rügen to the mainland – must be completed by the end of the year. Otherwise the work would have to stop until May because of the herrings.
Things are not going well with the “Germany pace”
In the future, LNG tankers are to dock in the Mukran industrial port, less than ten kilometers from Binz as the crow flies. The company Deutsche Regas wants to convert the cold liquid natural gas into a gaseous state on two floating terminals, so-called regasification ships. It will flow via pipeline through the Baltic Sea past Binz to the port of Lubmin, and from there on to the German gas network.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has made the project a top priority, but it doesn't work at the “German pace”. Initially, the largest LNG terminal in the Baltic Sea was supposed to start operations in December, then in February, but in any case this winter. But that too is now wobbling. Because deadlines were missed, also because of the bad weather, the work was extended into the herring spawning season.
German Environmental Aid and a herring fisherman filed lawsuits against this change in plans. Due to an urgent application, the Federal Administrative Court asked the company Gascade, which is responsible for building the pipeline through the Baltic Sea, to suspend work in the Greifswalder Bodden and in the first section of the lake.
“We are complying with this,” emphasizes a Gascade spokesman. The actual line is ready, and after final preparations, the company actually wants to put it into operation in February. But in some sections there are no stone coverings to partially restore the seabed – work that could massively disrupt the spawning season of the herring, as environmentalists warn.
There is no acute gas shortage, says the government of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
The Federal Network Agency also has doubts that the first gas can flow in winter; A final decision from the Federal Administrative Court is expected shortly. Meanwhile, the state government of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is clearly distancing itself. This was all the wish of the federal government, it says here. But the central argument for the terminal no longer applies: an acute gas shortage and the threat of bottlenecks in the winter. Instead, the storage tanks are well filled, at a good 77 percent.
“We are, if you will, just service providers here and have to abide by the laws,” Environment Minister Till Backhaus (SPD) recently told NDR. Everything will be checked in accordance with the rule of law. But: “We said from the beginning that Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania would not support this project because we have doubts about the gas shortage.” The Greens in the state parliament demand that the authorities revise their decisions. These are “obviously wrong,” says Hannes Damm, their energy policy spokesman.
On behalf of the Chancellor, Eastern Representative Carsten Schneider (SPD), however, continues to fight for the project, despite the storage being full: “The terminal will help us to create security of supply for Eastern Germany and also for Bavaria and the Czech Republic,” he says.
Proponents argue that with its location in East Germany, the terminal is particularly important – for example when gas no longer flows through Ukraine towards the Czech Republic and Hungary. The Ministry of Economic Affairs also expects it to go into operation this winter. Ultimately, the restoration of the seabed could wait until after the spawning season.
The terminal itself could begin operations this winter
But the mood on Rügen is tense. During citizen dialogues it became clear that many on the island have the impression that Berlin makes decisions over the heads of the local people.
Not everyone here sees it like the mayor of Binz: his Sassnitz counterpart Leon Kräusche, for example, is fighting for the project – Mukran is part of his city; it also attracts high tax revenues. But his office said he was unable to respond promptly to a written inquiry as to whether he remained committed to the project and whether he could quantify the exact benefits “due to his busy schedule.”
The Deutsche Regas company now has to make some changes. One of the two floating terminals Neptune, which is currently located in Lubmin, should be relocated to Mukran. Now it will remain where it is for the time being and will be converted for operation on Rügen “over the course of the spring”.
The company has chartered a second terminal ship Transgas Power. But she is currently traveling as an LNG tanker, currently in the North Atlantic. “The interim use as an LNG tanker took place on an interim basis until the terminal was completed,” emphasizes Deutsche Regas. Despite everything, people here remain optimistic: the terminal will “begin operations as planned this winter, subject to the appropriate approval,” it says here. Assuming, of course, that the gas pipeline to the mainland does the same.