Officials Admit Oil Spill Damage

China acknowledges that an extensive oil leak will have lasting effects.

bohaispillmap-305.jpg Leaks were reported at two oil platforms in Bohai Bay in June.

A disastrous oil spill in China's Bohai Bay will have a "long-term impact" on the marine environment, officials warned on Friday in their first public admission of the extent of the disaster.

The leak occurred at platforms in the Penglai 19-3 oilfield operated by ConocoPhillips China (COPC), which faces a fine of 200,000 yuan (U.S. $29,850) for polluting an area of more than 840 square kilometers in the bay.

Li Xiaoming, who is in charge of marine environment protection at the State Oceanic Administration, told a news conference in Beijing that his group had just finished a preliminary assessment of the damage.

His deputy, Wang Bin, told reporters: "As the impact is long-term and complicated, further investigation and assessment are still ongoing."

Lack of transparency

Environmentalists have slammed the lack of transparency surrounding the extent of the spill and resulting environmental damage.

"The reporting system for environmental disasters has only just been set up in the past few years," said Chinese environmental expert Yang Yong. "It hasn't yet become second nature."

"There are also questions about who supervises the reporting process and the departments that are supposed to report incidents."

Yang said that COPC's reports on the Bohai spill had been inadequate.

"Information about the real situation [on the ground], the impact of the disaster, and the amount of damage done, as well as the emergency measures being taken, was really not very clear," Yang said.

"The Bohai Bay oil spill should be a lesson to us."

Downplaying the incident

Meanwhile, the Germany-based group Transparency International accused the companies and officials involved of trying to minimize the scale of the leak.

"Those in charge in incidents like the Bohai Bay oil spill are concerned with trying to play down incidents like this," said the group's Asian affairs director Liao Ran.

"They [know that] there will be a huge public response."

Liao said he had already seen a number of reports on the incident, however.

"Actually this is extremely serious," he said. "But China's bureaucracy are all the same [in that] they will try to cover up an incident [like this] if they can."

"They will do everything they can to suppress information in the name of social stability," he said.

Penglai leak

The Penglai 19-3 field, in the center of northern China's Bohai Bay, is China's largest offshore oilfield, producing 160,000 barrels a day.

The leak was first reported at the field's Platform B on June 12, with a second leak discovered five days later at Platform C.

The leaks formed a 13-kilometer slick, which was controlled by floating booms, while the leak was brought under control by June 21, officials said.

The field is operated by COPC under a joint development agreement with the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).

Reported by Wen Jian for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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