Authority sued over drilling in Bohai Bay
The All-China Environment Federation, a nationwide NGO on environmental issues, has stepped up its fight against marine pollution with a lawsuit against the State Oceanic Administration for “illegally” allowing a US oil company to restart drilling in February after a severe spill in Bohai Bay in 2011.
“The reason we filed the suit is to supervise the State Oceanic Administration to strictly follow the law in dealing with major marine pollution events,” Ma Yong, the federation’s director of supervision and litigation, said on Tuesday.
“The information released to the public by the administration didn’t contain environmental assessments and no public hearing was held, which is required by law after any severe environmental pollution event.” He said marine pollution is a major focus of the federation’s work.
The administration declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Beijing No 1 Intermediate People’s Court confirmed receiving the lawsuit, but refused to disclose further details. The court must decide whether to accept the case within seven working days.
It is the latest lawsuit related to the oil spill in the Bohai Bay in June 2011. So far, no case has been accepted by the courts.
In June 2011, the Penglai 19- 3 Oilfield experienced two unrelated leaks, with initial estimates indicating about 115 cubic meters of oil was released into the sea and 416 cu m of mineral oil mud was released onto the seabed, according to operators ConocoPhillips. The US company owns a 49 percent stake in the field, while China National Offshore Oil Corporation has 51 percent.
A State Oceanic Administration report in November said the leaks polluted an area of about 6,200 square kilometers — nearly nine times the size of Singapore.
ConocoPhillips was ordered to halt production in September 2011.
The two companies previously agreed to pay 1.68 billion yuan ($27 million) in compensation to those affected by the spill.
Xia Jun, a Beijing lawyer, said there is little hope that the court will accept the federation’s suit, but at least the action showed a channel for pursuing the public interest.
A draft amendment to Civil Procedure Law being considered by the authorities will, if approved, entitle the federation to file class actions in the public interest, especially in cases of environmental pollution or unsafe food.
Yang Jizhen, a seafood farmer in Hebei province’s Laoting county, near the spill area, said his family received 600,000 yuan as compensation for his economic losses.
For Yang, that was far from enough, but he said, “Although the compensation is about half of our yearly output, at least we got something.”
What he worries about more is this year’s harvest. All the shells he cultivated this year grew slowly, to only about half their normal size. He said he is afraid the water quality has not improved since the oil spill.