Chinese State Media Blast US Firm Over Oil Leak

Posted September 5th, 2011 at 1:50 am (UTC-5)
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Chinese state media are accusing an American oil company of lacking basic social responsibility in its handling of an oil spill in Bohai Bay, off China's northeast coast.

The company, ConocoPhillips China, said it expected to complete a shutdown of its operations in the bay by the end of Monday, complying with an order issued by Chinese regulators on Friday. But it faces a lawsuit from government agencies and a barrage of media criticism, including charges it violated operating rules and lied about the state of the oil leak.

The company reported Wednesday that it had met an August 31 deadline for fully halting the leakage from the floor of the bay and completing a clean-up. But regulators detected continued leakage after the deadline and ordered a shutdown in operations.

Anger toward the company increased on Friday after Chinese state television quoted a company official saying ConocoPhillips had deliberately lied when it said the leak had been contained.

The company denied that its employee made the comment, which was recorded in an interview over marine radio. ConocoPhillips said the recording shows the comment came from someone else, and noted that any other marine radio user could have cut into the conversation.

The explanation failed to satisfy a commentator at the People's Daily, flagship of the ruling Communist Party. The newspaper said Monday that crisis management skills cannot help the company if it lacks the least bit of social integrity. The article accused the company of delays, negligence, cover-ups and cheating.

About 700 barrels of oil and 2,500 barrels of drilling mud have leaked into the bay since June 4, fouling beaches and affecting the bay's fishing and aquaculture industries. ConocoPhillips says it notified authorities promptly about the leaks, but they did not become public until a newspaper expose roused public anger in mid-July.

The company operates China's Penglai 19-3 oil field, potentially the country's largest, in partnership with China's largest offshore drilling company, CNOOC.