China Denies Coverup of ConocoPhillips Oil Spill

Sunday, July 17, 2011
Worker collects sample of polluted water in Bohai Sea. (Photo: Xinhua)
American oil corporation ConocoPhillips has been accused of conspiring with the Chinese government to cover up a large oil spill in the Bohai Bay.
Activists say two spills occurred in June from oil platforms owned by ConocoPhillips’ China subsidiary and the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), creating an oil slick six times the size of Singapore.
Though the spills occurred on June 4 and June 17, officials did not inform the public about them until July 5.
ConocoPhillips tried reassuring the Chinese that the spills were minor, saying only 1,500 and 2,000 barrels leaked into the sea. Environmentalists in China reacted skeptically to the estimate, citing last year’s incident in which explosions ruptured two pipelines in the coastal city of Dalian. Then, the government said 11,000 barrels of oil were spilled, while independent experts put the amount at 650,000 barrels.
The spill in the Bohai Bay has produced strong reactions from Chinese media sources, which rarely challenge the government. The Global Times newspaper accused the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) of protecting the oil company.
“We cannot help but wonder: Is the SOA a serious watchdog that exists to prevent bigger incidents from happening, or a loving parent who is over-protective of his own child?” a Global Times editorial said.
CNOOC Vice President Chen Bi told a news conference the company was sorry for the negative impact of the spill but denied it had tried to cover up the incident.
Last week, SOA said that oil continued to leak into the ocean and ordered ConocoPhillips to cease operations at several rigs, although the company maintained the leaks had been plugged.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
China Seeks to Stem Bohai Sea Oil Spills (by Jonathan Kaiman, Los Angeles Times)
China Oil Spill Six Times Size of Singapore: Govt (by Frederic J. Brown, Agence France Presse)


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