Shandong fishermen sue ConocoPhillips in US

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, April 5, 2013
Adjust font size:


A ship moves near the platform B in Penglai 19-3 oilfield at north China's Bohai Bay, in this file photo taken on July 15, 2011. ConocoPhillips China, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based oil company ConocoPhillips, said on Aug. 12, 2011 that oil and mud leaking from two of the company's platforms in the Penglai 19-3 oilfield in China's Bohai Bay have totaled 2,500 barrels so far, as more pollutants have been found during the company's clean-up efforts. [Xinhua/Guo Xulei]

In June 2011, the occurrence of a serious oil spill in the 19-3 oil field of Penglai in the Bohai Sea, forced ConocoPhillips China Inc. (ConocoPhillips China) to pay 1.09 billion yuan in compensation. The money was divided equally among the fishermen of Laoting, Changli in Hebei, and Suizhong in Liaoning in April of 2012. Yet the event did not end there.

Not designated within the scope of compensation by the Ministry of Agriculture, 500 fishermen from Shandong Province turned to the U.S. and sued ConocoPhillips U.S.

One of the fishermen revealed to the Daily Economic News that the American local court had accepted the case and held its hearings on April 2. They asked at least 50,000 dollars per capita in payment. However, ConocoPhillips then opposed on the grounds of jurisdiction objection. It was expected the U.S. court would make its decision in June.

The Bohai Penglai 19-3 oilfield is back on track now, yet still faces the challenge of an environmental assessment. It's said that the State Oceanic Administration would give its definitive answer around April 12.

Compensation: At least $ 50,000 each person

"We are also forced to do so. We're trying our luck," fishman Wang Zhongguo told the Daily Economic News.

Reports mentioned that after the oil spill, a lawyer called Jia Fangyi on behalf of 30 local fishermen had filed a bill to the Qingdao Maritime Court on November 18, 2011, but this event was not put on record.

On July 2, 2012, 30 Shandong fishermen submitted a bill of complaint to the Southern District Court in Texas, U.S., where the ConocoPhillips headquarters are located, naming the U.S. ConocoPhillips as the defendant. Later on, the number of the plaintiffs increased to 500, hailing from Changdao, Muli of Yantai and Laizhou.

Meanwhile, the Shandong fishermen also required ConocoPhillips would be held responsible for their actual losses, future losses and losses in pollution, resource destruction, life quality, and other aspects.

Additionally, another 208 farmers in Caofeidian of Tangshan also said that they were excluded from the 1.09-billion-yuan compensation. On March 18, they issued an open letter to the National Development and Reform Commission, requesting to halt ConocoPhillips China's oil production activities in the Bohai Sea.

Heated debate on the jurisdiction of the United States Court

The reporter from Daily Economic News learned that the American local court had started its hearings in January. It was anticipated the U.S. court would make its decision on jurisdiction objection sometime in June.

On September 24, 2012, the defendant ConocoPhillips submitted an application to the United States Court, requesting to dismiss the prosecution of Shandong fishermen. On September 28, 2012, ConocoPhillips submitted its statement of defense.

In ConocoPhillips's opinion, it has signed an agreement with the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and the State Oceanic Administration and paid 1.09 billion yuan for the losses caused by the oil spill; CNOOC and ConocoPhillips China had also respectively invested 480 million yuan and 113 million yuan to undertake responsibilities in protecting the Bohai sea.

"The Ministry of Agriculture pointed out that the pollution didn't affect fishermen in Shandong. If they can prove they have been affected, they might also apply to the Ministry of Agriculture for compensation," ConocoPhillips noted.

The attorney from ConocoPhillips said the Chinese government's findings were invalid for the plaintiff to be compensated. If the plaintiffs possessed the evidence to back up they were the owners or beneficiaries of aquaculture and their losses were caused by the oil spill, they could be compensated. Their right to claim compensation would then be protected.

"Shandong fishermen failed to participate in the agreement signing between the Chinese government and ConocoPhillips. And the agreement couldn't stop the fishermen from filing a bill to the Chinese court. ConocoPhillips's behavior was a somewhat 'pretended ignorance' of the Chinese law," said Jia. "If the first set of the compensation funds led nowhere, the other fishermen who had the evidence of contamination could not be compensated either."

"ConocoPhillips' claim that the Shandong fishermen were not affected by the pollution was entirely groundless. It was not affirmed by law and never announced to the fishermen. So it was invalid according the law in China." Jia told the Daily Economic News reporter.

Environmental assessment of the 19-3 oil field's resume production questioned

In June 2011, a serious oil spill in 19-3 oil field of Penglai occurred, with 700 barrels of crude oil flowing into the Bohai Sea and some 2,500 barrels of mineral oil-based mud stranding under the sea.

In February of this year, the State Oceanic Administration announced that ConocoPhillips had obtained its documents of approval to resume its project.

However, for the 19-3's resumption of production, the State Oceanic Administration did not take the initiative to publicize the supervision and inspection documents of approval on environmental protection.

On February 27, two lawyers called Tang Huadong and Sun Peng from Beijing Deheheng (Shanghai) Law Firm submitted the information disclosure application form to the State Oceanic Administration.

Tang noted that as to State Oceanic Administration's document of approval, on the one hand, it was not publicized, and on the other hand, no hearings had been organized. Such behavior was administratively illegal and improper.

Sun also questioned why the State Oceanic Administration had hastily approved the resumption of production.

"On March 21, State Oceanic Administration sent us a letter, which stated it would reply us within 15 working days. We're still waiting for that day. It will probably be on April 12." Tang told the Daily Economic News reporter.

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from