China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA) is being sued for allowing US oil major ConocoPhillips to resume production after spills off northern China in 2011, state media reported yesterday.
The Global Times newspaper said the SOA confirmed it was being pursued for administrative misconduct.
The action is being mounted by the All-China Environment Federation, which describes itself on its Web site as a non-profit civil society organization supported by the government.
It is rare for a Chinese official agency to face court action from another government-backed entity.
The spills in June 2011 at the offshore Penglai field, jointly developed by ConocoPhillips and state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp (中國海洋石油), allowed more than 3,000 barrels of oil and oil-based mud — used as a lubricant in drilling — to vent into Bohai Bay.
ConocoPhillips was ordered to cease production in September 2011 following the spills, which the SOA classified as “severe accidents,” the Global Times said.
It approved the resumption of production in February although no public hearings or feasibility studies were held, the paper quoted Xu Hongliang (徐紅亮), the federation’s lawyer, as saying.
The suit comes amid vows by the Chinese Communist Party to crack down on official corruption and pressure officials to be more accountable for their actions as it seeks to keep public anger in check and maintain its more than six-decade rule.
Xu said the No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court in Beijing should say within seven days whether it will accept or reject the case, the paper added.
It quoted SOA press office director Li Mousheng as saying: “We will give the public an explanation soon.”
The SOA has responsibility for a wide range of oceanic and maritime laws and policies, including safeguarding maritime rights and interests, according to its Web site.