ConocoPhillips lawsuit (re oil spill in China, filed in USA)
Snapshot: Following a 2011 oil spill in the Bohai Sea in China, affected fisherman whose livelihoods were impacted by the spill filed lawsuits against ConocoPhillips in China and the US. While some of the Chinese lawsuits were able to proceed, the US lawsuit was dismissed by the US district court of Southern Texas. This case profile looks at proceedings in the USA.
In 2011, a subsidiary of a US based company ConocoPhillips, ConocoPhillips China, caused an oil spill in the Bohai Sea in China, which severely damaged the ecosystem in the Bohai Bay and greatly affected the livelihoods of local fishermen. In January 2012, ConocoPhillips and its partner, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, reached an agreement with China's Ministry of Agriculture and State Oceanic Administration to settle compensation claims in amount of 1.09 billion yuan in relation to fishery-related losses in Hebei and Liaoning provinces. However, fishermen from some other areas, allegedly also affected by the spill, were excluded from the compensation scheme.
Litigation in the USA
On 2 July 2012, a group of 30 fishermen from Shandong province filed a lawsuit against ConocoPhillips in US federal court in Texas, where ConocoPhillips is headquartered. The plaintiffs claimed that the US lawsuit was their only chance to get justice for the effect of oil spills on their livelihoods due to the Chinese Government blocking access to its own court system. Some plaintiffs claim they have been warned, threatened and monitored by local governmental officials in Shandong, and intimidated into withdrawing the lawsuit. On 16 October 2012, a group of 167 fishermen from Hebei province also filed a petition in Texas court to depose executives from ConocoPhillips, claiming that it directly relates to claims they have presented before the Chinese court. ConocoPhillips argued that US courts do not have jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ claims and that the lawsuit should be dismissed. The company also claimed that according to the report by Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, fishermen in Shandong had not been affected by the oil spill. ConocoPhillips argued that if the plaintiffs could prove they had been affected, they could seek compensation through the Ministry of Agriculture. On 8 November 2016, the US district court of Southern Texas dismissed the civil claim of Shandong fishermen and the petition for deposition by Hebei fishermen.
- "Bohai legacy highlights weakness in China’s marine law", Chinadialogue, 26 June 2018
-"Chinese fishermen sue ConocoPhillips over spills", Associated Press, 2 Jul 2017
- “Shandong fishermen sue ConocoPhillips in US”, China.org.cn, 5 Apr 2013
- “Beijing warns Shandong fishermen against suing ConocoPhillips over Bohai oil spill”, Stephen Chen, South China Morning Post, 3 Apr 2013
- [PDF] Peiqing Cong, et al. v. ConocoPhillips - Opinion on Dismissal, US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, 8 Nov 2016
- [PDF] Peiqing Cong, et al. v. ConocPhillips - Opinion on Remand & Deposition, US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, 8 Nov 2016
- [PDF] Peiqing Cong, et al. v. ConocoPhillips - ConocoPhillips Company's Reply Brief in Support of its Motion to Dismiss, 11 Jan 2013
- [PDF] Peiqing Cong, et al. v. ConocoPhillips - Complaint for Damages and Injunctive Relief, 2 Jul 2012 [plaintiffs' complaint filed at the US District Court for the Southern District of Houston]