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10th Dec 2014
The Tianjin Maritime Court decided it would try to settle the case through mediation.
The fishermen filing the CNY 148.5 million (USD 24.2 million) lawsuit argue the multinational oil and gas producer ConocoPhillips China and the China National Offshore Oil Corp. are responsible for their loss of farmed sea cucumbers after about 700 barrels of oil and 2,500 barrels of slurry leaked from the jointly run Penglai 19-3 oilfield, South China Morning Post informed.
An official investigation that included the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) concluded that about 6,200 sq km of water was contaminated and classified the spills as "severe accidents".
A year after the spill, the two companies were made to pay CNY 1000 million (UAS 163 million) to the Ministry of Agriculture for compensation to affected residents and months later, the SOA levelled a CNY 1.68 billion (USD 273 million) penalty for the ecological damage and to fund environmental protection efforts.
Meanwhile, in their defense both accused firms had stated the farmers fell outside the 6,200 sq km area identified in the official investigation, and argued the local company that carried out the testing lacked necessary qualifications. Besides, the trial transcription read that the giants considered the fishermen could not prove the spill killed the cucumbers.
ConocoPhillips claimed it had immediately reported the incident to the SOA and had carried out clean-up work. In addition, CNOOC pointed out the fishermen have no right to seek compensation because the farms were illegal while some of the fishermen were not the registered owners of the farms, Global Times informed.
For his part, the Environmental Legal Service Centre under the government-backed All-China Environment Federation believes the hearings showed the difficulties pollution victims often faced when trying to seek compensation.
"Establishing the causal relationship between pollution and economic losses, and determining the actual amount of the losses in court have proved to be the major obstacles for pollution victims, some of whom are farmers or fishermen who do not even have the awareness to preserve the evidence - in some cases the dead fish," agency director Ma Yong commented.
Source: FIS News