February 13, 2014 / 8:11 AM / in 4 years

China's top oil firm blacklisted for environmental breaches

BEIJING, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the country’s biggest oil producer, has been put on a pollution blacklist for the second time in six months after breaching regulations at one of its refineries, the state environment watchdog said.

As Beijing tries to placate public complaints about the condition of the country’s air, water and soil, the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) is under mounting pressure to strike hard against powerful industrial firms long given a relatively free hand to pollute in the quest for profit.

The ministry is expected to get new powers to punish law-breaking enterprises during the annual session of the country’s parliament in March.

It has already been naming and shaming enterprises and local governments for violating rules and falsifying data, and has refused to approve proposed projects until problems are rectified.

Late on Wednesday, the MEP published a list of 27 projects found to have violated a range of environmental regulations during inspections conducted in December. In addition to CNPC, the list included projects by state-owned Baotou Iron and Steel in Inner Mongolia.

The ministry said CNPC was fined 500,000 yuan ($82,500) and ordered to rectify “illegal behaviour” at its oilfield in northeast China’s Jilin province, where untreated wastewater was found to have contaminated local land and underground water tables.

The MEP said the case had been passed on to police authorities and the firm had been given a timeframe - which wasn’t disclosed - to resolve the issue.

CNPC is the parent of PetroChina , China’s dominant oil and gas producer. A spokesman for the firm was not immediately available when contacted by Reuters for comment.

Last year, CNPC and its state-owned rival, the Sinopec Group, were criticised after failing to install mandatory emissions technology at some of their facilities. The MEP said it would suspend environmental approvals for the companies’ refinery-building plans.

It is unclear whether that suspension is still in effect.

The ministry did not immediately respond to questions submitted by Reuters on Thursday, but the vice-minister of environmental protection, Zhai Qing said at a briefing on Tuesday that the two firms had “basically rectified” the problems discovered in 2012 and 2013.

$1 = 6.0624 Chinese yuan Reporting by David Stanway and Judy Hua; Editing by Richard Borsuk

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