Criminal liability against ConocoPhillips' oil spill

By Xu Lin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, April 20, 2013
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De Heng Law Firm has submitted open letters to three top Chinese officials, calling for criminal liability against those responsible for ConocoPhillips' oil spill, the law firm revealed on Thursday.

The action was taken in response to the State Oceanic Administration's (SOA's) decision to agree with ConocoPhillips China to resume production. The open letters were sent to Zhou Qiang, President of China's Supreme People's Court, Cao Jianming, Procurator-General of China's Supreme People's Procuratorate, and Jiang Daming, China's Land and Resources Minister.

The firm mentioned in the letters that two serious oil spills have occurred at ConocoPhillips' Bohai Oil Field in June 2011. The joint investigation team announced on Nov. 11 the same year that due to ConocoPhillips' illegal operations, a total area of 6,200 square kilometers of ocean was polluted, which was the severest marine pollution in Chinese history.

The oil spills greatly affected aquiculture and fishery famers in Hebei, Liaoning, Tianjin and Shandong Provinces. A group of 29 fishermen filed a case with the Tianjin Maritime Court, suing ConocoPhillips and China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC). The court accepted the case but it has not yet come to trial . The fishermen in Shandong also filed a complaint, but the court claimed that they couldn't accept it until they receive permission from the higher court. The fishermen from Shandong Province then turned to sue ConocoPhillips in a U.S court.

One of the letters earnestly requested President Zhou to urge the related courts to accept Shandong fishermen's case and rule on the accepted cases as soon as possible.

The firm indicated that the State Oceanic Administration announced its decision to grant permission for ConocoPhillips China to resume production on Feb. 16 this year, without any public notice or hearing, which attracted skepticism from the public.

Cao was urged to supervise the case and begin procedures for criminal prosecution for those responsible.

Minister Jiang was requested not to conceal any information related to the harm caused by the oil spill, and was requested to force ConocoPhillips' oil fields to achieve zero-pollution. The letter suggested that the SOA should carry out vessel inspections instead of aircraft reconnaissance in ConocoPhillips' Bohai Sea operation area. All inspection results should be made public.

Meanwhile, the SOA should hold a hearing to seek opinions from experts and the public before making any final decision on whether to give approval to ConocoPhillips to resume production.

Moreover, according to the previous agreements, incident compensation should be paid to affected farmers and fishermen in Hebei and Liaoning. The compensation for those affected in Shandong and Tianjin should also be included, the letter urged.

How much money is enough to cover all the negative effects brought about by the oil spill? The letter suggested that related organizations to refer to the oil spill in Gulf of Mexico to handle this case, and asked ConocoPhillips to increase compensation payments if necessary.

De Heng Law Firm disclosed that over 50 experts and attorneys signed the open letters.

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