Delays in reporting oil spills criticised
Two large oil corporations, one state-owned and the other based in the United States, are being criticised for delays in reporting oil spills they caused last month in the mouth of Bohai Bay, an inner gulf in the Yellow Sea.
The two spills took place in early and mid-June, at the Penglai 19-3 oilfield jointly owned by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), China's state-owned offshore oil monopoly, and by ConocoPhillips, which is also the current undertaker of the drilling operation.
Wang Bin, deputy chief of the Division of Oceanic Environmental Protection under the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), confirmed yesterday the government would hold a press conference tomorrow to release its assessment of the oil spills. The SOA is the state's authority for investigating and evaluating the biological and environmental impact from ocean spills.
Mainland media are criticising CNOOC for not disclosing the spills until well after online postings about them started emerging on China's version of Twitter, Weibo. The postings are believed to have been written by CNOOC staff. The company did not confirm the spill until Friday, a delay of about two weeks.
'Whether the accidents were really bad, and whether they are under control, the companies have failed to do what they should have done right away, and that is to respect citizens' right to know,' said Professor Lin Boqiang , a leading energy research scholar at Xiamen University.
Professor Wang Canfa, an environmental law specialist with the China University of Political Science and Law, said that if CNOOC failed to report the incident to the SOA promptly, then as both a state-owned and publicly listed company, it should be penalised in accordance with the law.
And if it was the SOA that acted improperly in dealing with the incident and in penalising those who were responsible, then the SOA was negligent.
The spill, at one point, had grown into an 'oil belt' about 3 kilometres long, and up to 30 metres wide, mainland media reported. The companies said they had since managed to bring the situation under control. The Bohai Bay oilfield is about 50 kilometres off the northern coast of the Shandong peninsula.
Jiang Yongzhi, CNOOC spokesman, said yesterday the accident was 'basically under control'. The cause of the incident could not yet be given, although the two companies were working together to provide an update soon. So far, neither the government nor the two companies have briefed the public about the cause of the spills.