China court accepts lawsuit against ConocoPhillips

A Chinese court has agreed to hear a lawsuit brought against US firm ConocoPhillips by a group of fishermen over an oil spill.

Last Updated: Dec 30, 2011, 21:37 PM IST

Beijing: A Chinese court has agreed to hear
a lawsuit brought against US firm ConocoPhillips by a group of
fishermen over an oil spill, state media said on Friday.

The June leak released more than 3,000 barrels of oil and
oil-based mud -- used as a lubricant in drilling -- off
China`s northeastern coast, drawing widespread public
criticism and warnings from Chinese authorities.

Lawyers for a group of 29 fishermen filed a case with the
Tianjin Maritime Court in northern China, claiming the leak
from a field operated by ConocoPhillips killed many of their
clams and sea cucumbers, a form of seafood.

A news agency said on Friday the court had
accepted the fishermen`s suit, but gave no details on the
amount of compensation being sought.

Calls to the court, ConocoPhillips and to the fishermen`s
lawyer went unanswered.

It also reported that the same court was checking the
identities of 107 fishermen who have filed a separate case
against ConocoPhillips seeking 490 million yuan (USD 78
million).

It said that case had been rejected on December 13 and
the court asked those fishermen`s lawyers to refile with more
evidence.

The spill, which happened near platforms jointly owned by
Conoco and Chinese state-owned giant CNOOC, polluted over
6,200 square kilometres of water in Bohai Bay, the report said
-- more than eight times the size of Singapore.

Houston-based ConocoPhillips agreed in September to
comply with a Chinese order to halt production at the
platforms where the spill occurred and set up compensation
funds in recognition of its responsibility for the accident.

It was not immediately clear if production has since
resumed.

A separate lawsuit connected to the spill has been filed
in the eastern city of Qingdao by more than 200 fishermen
seeking 30 million yuan in compensation, but it was unclear
whether the court there has accepted the case.

The State Oceanic Administration -- the government agency
that supervises and manages China`s seas -- has also said it
will sue ConocoPhillips over the leak.

Environmental groups and local fishermen have accused
ConocoPhillips and CNOOC of initially covering up the spill,
saying it was discovered in June but only made public nearly a
month later.

Both firms deny the allegations. ConocoPhillips says it
cooperated with authorities as soon as the accident occurred.

PTI