Kunming PX risk 'acceptable'

By Duan Wuning Source:Global Times Published: 2013-6-26 0:13:01

The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) released an environmental assessment report on the controversial oil refinery and paraxylene project (PX) in Kunming, Yunnan Province to the public on Tuesday, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

The 26-page report concluded that the project is "acceptable" based on its influence on the area's environment, that its emergency plans and risk prevention measures can meet the needs, and that the environmental risk level is also acceptable.

The report comes after two major protests in Kunming, the capital city of the province, in May. An official with the Yunnan Development and Reform Commission claimed the environmental assessment report is classified and cannot be publicly released, said the China News Service.

Despite repeated government and CNPC assurances, the public is still skeptical about the possible environmental consequences of the project.

"Most oil refineries are built near the sea, because the process needs a great amount of water, and waste water can be dumped into the sea, but Yunnan is on a plateau, and suffers from constant drought, it's obvious to ask whether building an oil refinery here is proper," an anonymous Kunming resident told the Global Times.

"We need a third-party report, or one done by the government. CNPC's report lacks credibility," a Web user posted on Sina Weibo on Tuesday. "It seems that the Kunming government has decided to side with CNPC."

The report is available on CNPC's website. Printout copies will be available at an exhibition hall in Anning Ninghu Park for local residents to review for a month until July 25. Experts will also be assigned to answer questions at the scene, according to a statement on the CNPC website.

Zhao Zhangyuan, a research fellow with the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, said that public input should be respected.

"Though paraxylene is low in toxicity, it's still toxic, and it's a stable chemical, which would affect the environment after long-term accumulation. Hence it's better to locate (the plant) in a sparsely populated area."

According to a People's Daily report on Monday, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) listed paraxylene as a Group 3 carcinogen in its five-level classification system, the same as coffee, which means evidence of its carcinogenicity is inadequate.

PX projects in Japan and South Korea have developed rapidly while domestic projects have stalled. In 2012, China became the world's biggest paraxylene consumer, with a demand of 13.85 million tons, but the country's production capacity was only 8.8 million tons, the report said.   

"It's very likely the project won't go through if the public strongly opposes it. PX projects are significant to economic development, but not at the cost of the environment," said Zhao.

Since 2007, PX projects in Xiamen, Fujian Province; Dalian, Liaoning Province; and Ningbo, Zhejiang Province have been quashed following public demonstrations.  

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