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Fishermen sue oil firm in US

(Shanghai Daily)

15:09, July 04, 2012

BEIJING, July 4 (Xinhuanet) -- A group of 30 fishermen from China began legal action against ConocoPhillips in US federal court on Monday, claiming their livelihoods have been greatly affected by two oil spills last year from the company's offshore drilling operations in northeastern China.

Lawyers for the fishermen said the lawsuit was filed in US District Court in Houston, where the company is based. Lawyer Tom Bilek noted that the company had already taken responsibility for the spills that released more than 30,000 gallons of oil into the Bohai Sea.

"ConocoPhillips assumed responsibility, and we are just trying to make them responsible," Bilek told reporters.

The spills occurred in June 2011 in Penglai 19-3, China's largest oilfield. Combined, they released more than 30,300 gallons of oil, or 723 barrels, and more than 110,000 gallons of mineral oil-based drilling mud, which is used as a lubricant for drilling.

The company has said all sources of the oil spills - which covered about 6,200 square kilometers of the sea's surface - have been sealed and the vast majority of the oil and drilling mud recovered.

ConocoPhillips and its partner, the China National Offshore Oil Corp, reached a US$160 million agreement in January with China's Ministry of Agriculture to settle compensation claims related to the spills. In April, ConocoPhillips said it would pay US$191 million to a Chinese agency to help pay for social projects in Bohai Bay and improve marine environment protection and reduce pollutants.

Bilek said his clients had been excluded from making compensation claims because of a complicated and bureaucratic system that has been set up to distribute the funds.

"ConocoPhillips said it is responsible, but they have not provided procedures for any of these people to get paid. They are only paying the Chinese government and not the people that are injured," said Bilek.

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