Payouts for Bohai oil spills 'unlikely'

By Ji Beibei Source:Global Times Published: 2011-7-14 3:58:00

Legal and management problems should be solved before ecological compensation for oil spills that occurred in June in the Bohai Bay affecting an area of over 840 square kilometers are realized, some experts pointed out.

The State Ocean Administration (SOA) had asked for compensation of 200,000 yuan ($31,000) in accordance with the country's Marine Environment Protection Law (MEPL) after oil spills occurred at two platforms at the Penglai oilfield run by ConocoPhillips China in Bohai in June.

Wang Bin, deputy director of the Environmental Protection Department under the SOA, told media that the SOA would support the country's claim for ecological compensation from ConocoPhillips China, which was found to be mainly responsible for the spills, after the public said the fine was too low.

China's law only "entitles one to file lawsuits for ecological compensation but lacks jurisprudence and stipulations" to protect interests in this aspect, Liu Jiayi, a researcher at the China Institute for Marine Affairs, told the Beijing-based Legal Daily. 

In recent years, oil spill lawsuits have been filed against energy enterprises such as CNOOC, but most end up being settled out of court. In these cases, fisheries can usually get more compensation than oceanic ecologies, as there is no agreed method to calculate ecological compensation, Southern Metropolis Daily reported Wednesday.

In 2002, the Maltese oil tanker Tasmanse leaked over 200 tons of oil into the sea off Bohai near Tianjin after striking a Chinese vessel there.

The ensuing lawsuit, which lasted seven years, was an indication of how difficult it was to define pollution and damages.

The plaintiff "applied for a total of over 98 million yuan" to cover eight types of ecological damage, while only two damages were recognized and compensation of over 9 million yuan was paid out, Liu said.

In 2007, the SOA issued guidelines on how to assess ecological damages brought by oil spills, which Xu Guangyu, a Guangzhou lawyer involved in the Tasmanse oil spill case, said was "a big step toward ecological compensation."
"The concept of oceanic ecology is very complex, which also explains why defining ecological losses and damages is no easy job," Xu told the Global Times Wednesday.

Some local governments, "which are GDP-oriented, tend to give up applying for compensation" and cover up the spill cases, as they fear that filing lawsuits would draw media attention and hurt the local economy, an NGO worker in Beijing told the Global Times.

Posted in: Society, China Watch

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