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China maritime authorities says ConocoPhillips failed to fully stop, clean up Bohai oil spills
SHANGHAI (AP) ' China's oceanic agency has ordered ConocoPhillips China to do a better job of preventing and cleaning up offshore spills in the Bohai Bay that have raised an outcry among fishermen and environmentalists.
The State Oceanic Administration said Friday that its investigation found the company had failed to fully comply with orders to completely clean up damage from the spills and to ensure they would not reoccur.
The agency ordered the oil company to stop drilling and any oil and gas production in the affected field, off China's eastern coast.
It demanded "strong and effective measures" to prevent further oil leaks and remove any spills and called for a full environmental impact assessment before production resumes.
ConocoPhillips reported earlier this week that it had completely cleaned up the spills, which began in June, had sealed the fault causing the leaks and placed a containment device to prevent further seeps.
Small amounts of oil and mineral oil-based drilling mud, used as a lubricant, that was still emerging were from earlier seeps that have been shifting from under layers of sand on the sea bed, it said.
The company's spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment late Friday.
But the State Oceanic Administration said that monitoring by satellite, underwater robots and other means showed that the oil was not fully cleaned up and was still seeping out. It repeated criticism over ConocoPhillips' containment measures, deeming them not a permanent solution.
"ConocoPhillips did not operate in a prudent and responsible way," it said.
ConocoPhillips China operates the affected wells in the Penglai 19-3 oil field, one of China's largest, in a venture with China National Offshore Oil Corp. It holds a 49 percent stake while CNOOC holds 51 percent. Both companies have publicly apologized for the spills.
The government says the spills spread up to 5,500 square kilometers (2,124 miles) and may have killed off scallops in the area. ConocoPhillips says damage to the marine environment was minimized and that most oil particles found onshore were not related to the spills but were from fuel in the water.
The comments Friday by the oceanic administration suggest a clash of opinions over how to handle the seeps, said to have been caused by pressure that had built up due to injections used to help force oil from the wells.
The controversy reflects growing pressures on the Bohai, a major fisheries base, from rapid industrialization, especially in the energy sector. On the gulf's northeastern end lies Dalian, where residents have marched to protest chemical factories, and fretted over oil spills and fires at refineries.
The notice ordered ConocoPhillips to accept CNOOC'S "strict supervision" in preventing any further spills.
AP researcher Fu Ting contributed.