Oil spill shame
Updated: 2011-08-22 07:39
The investigation, jointly organized by seven central government departments, into the oil spill involving ConocoPhillips China in Bohai Bay is long overdue given the continuing leaks and the uncooperative attitude from the subsidiary of the Houston-based US energy giant.
The State Oceanic Administration (SOA) revealed that the joint investigation team convened a meeting on Saturday to hear reports from ConocoPhillips China and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), ConocoPhillips' partner in the oil field. The team involves the ministries of environmental protection, transportation, agriculture, land and resources, State Administration of Work Safety and State Administration of Energy Resources.
ConocoPhillips China has reported nine new oil leaks, which proves that the company has failed to take effective action since the first leaks were discovered in the middle of June and that the situation is deteriorating.
All the actions the joint investigation team has ordered the company to take, including doing all that it can to stop the leaks, conducting a thorough risk assessment to prevent any further oil leaks and undertaking a clean up, are measures the company should have been taking two months ago.
The reluctance of the oil firm to take the necessary actions and shoulder its responsibilities - as well as its apology that came two months after the first leaks were discovered - shows its arrogance. It has turned a deaf ear and blind eye to the environmental damage and heavy economic losses suffered by Chinese fisheries. Its open defiance of China's maritime watchdog sends the message that this firm lacks any social responsibility.
This environmental disaster also shows that the maritime watchdog alone does not have the means to make a foreign firm abide by Chinese laws and regulations governing the exploitation of maritime resources.
The joint investigation team has so far not imposed any penalties and even fines on ConocoPhillips China and its partner CNOOC, which in turn are also yet to mention how much they will pay in compensation for the damage its oil spills have caused. The Chinese government needs to seriously consider what measures it can introduce to punish foreign firms that violate Chinese rules.
The latest monitoring and surveys show that the oil in the water around the Penglai 19-3 oilfield is thicker than several days ago. This suggests that before they can begin a clean up ConocoPhillips China and its partner CNOOC still have a lot to do to stop the leaks.
Let's hope the joint investigation team will push the oil companies to take the necessary steps to reverse the situation.
(China Daily 08/22/2011 page8)