Chinese Oil Spill Victims Turn to U.S. Court System to Seek Justice Against ConocoPhillips, announces SmithStag, LLC

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Jul 02, 2012, 15:27 ET from Smith Stag LLC

HOUSTON, July 2, 2012  /PRNewswire/ -- Aware of the on-going legal fight by Louisiana and Gulf Coast fishermen impacted by the 2010 BP Oil Disaster, Chinese fishermen whose livelihood from the Bohai Sea has been destroyed by a massive oil leak caused by ConocoPhillips have sought legal representation by Louisiana and Texas attorneys.

Thirty Chinese fishermen are headed to U.S. District Court, Southern Division of Texas, Houston today to seek relief from a massive oil spill which started in July, 2011 and continues to this day, destroying the ecosystem in the Bohai Sea from which the fishermen earn a living.

The legal team assisting the Chinese fishermen will be headed by Mr. Smith, Smith Stag LLC of New Orleans, and Attorneys Tom and Kelly Bilek of Houston, Texas. All attorneys are currently battling BP on behalf of thousands of Gulf Coast fishermen, businesses and property owners harmed by the 2010 Gulf Oil Disaster.

Mr. Smith said he will file proceedings to help the fishermen, even though ConocoPhilips has issued reports claiming no evidence of environmental pollution. Nevertheless, Mr. Stuart said massive fish kills rot in the bay.

Bohai Bay is the innermost inlet of the Yellow Sea, east of Bejing. Its waters are fertile breeding grounds for scallops, clams, crabs and other types of seafood, but in recent years the bay has also attracted interest for its offshore oil deposits. There are now six rigs in the Penglai 19- 3 oil patch owned by ConocoPhillips.

The Chinese government initially refused to acknowledge the series of oil leaks which began in the Bohai Bay in June, 2011. In 90 days, the slick in the Bay grew to the size of the island nation of Singapore, said Mr. Smith.

He said the Chinese court system is characterized by what most Americans would expect in an oligarchy: a lack of due process and impartiality in judicial proceedings. Political control of courts and judges is commonplace, he added.

"There is one place in the world, however, where these humble fishermen still hope to have their day in court, and that is in the American legal system. It was in the U.S. where executives for ConocoPhillips made many of the decisions that led to the environmental carnage in Bohai Bay. We are bringing the case in Houston, where ConocoPhillips is headquartered," said Mr. Smith. 

The Quingdao Marine Court has still not responded to the suit filed by the fishermen on November 18, 2011, seven days after a Chinese government's State Oceanic Administration (SOA) report found ConocoPhillips responsible for the 6,200 square kilometers of oil-polluted waters. The SOA fined ConocoPhillips only $31,000US.

In turn, ConocoPhillips publicly accepted responsibility for the spills and, according to an April 30, 2012 SOA press release, will pay $173 million to the government over the next two years and also contribute $18 million by December 2014 toward social projects benefiting Bohai Bay.

News reports indicate the Chinese government will utilize the funds to invest in local tourism ventures, even while local fishermen decry the area as too polluted to benefit from tourism.

"The BP and Conoco disasters are cautionary tales. Both demonstrate the risks of deepwater drilling and the global arrogance of Big Oil," said Attorney Tom Bilek. He added that the Chinese spill was caused by ConocoPhillips when it failed to follow basic drilling safeguards and then failed to respond quickly to cap the leaks, mimicking the pattern covered in the BP Gulf spill.

Media Contact:

Stuart Smith (504) 593-9600

C. Brylski (504) 897-6110