U.S. senators to announce sanctions bill on Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

WASHINGTON, June 3 (Reuters) - Five U.S. senators are to announce legislation on Wednesday to expand sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2, a natural gas pipeline that would increase exports to Germany but is opposed by many in Washington who say it would tighten Moscow’s political and economic grip on Europe.

The bill, called Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Clarification Act, follows on legislation signed by President Donald Trump late last year. After the bill became law, Swiss-Dutch company Allseas immediately halted undersea work on the pipeline, which aims to double the capacity of an existing line sending Russian gas to Germany.

But now two Russian-owned pipe-laying vessels will likely be used to finish the remaining 100 miles (160 km) of the project, led by state gas company Gazprom.

Nord Stream 2, which would send gas under the Baltic Sea, could be launched by the end of 2020 or early next year, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said.

The new legislation, whose sponsors include Senators Ted Cruz, a Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, would expand the original sanctions to include penalties on parties involved in pipe-laying activities, not just pipe laying, and on parties providing underwriting services, insurance or reinsurance for the vessels. A copy of the bill was seen by Reuters.

The bill, which must be passed by both chambers of Congress and signed by Trump before becoming law, also adds sanctions on companies providing services or facilities for the vessels including welding equipment, retrofitting, or tethering of the ships.

Nord Stream 2 did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)