Global News: Chinese Lawyer Sues Oil Giants Over Spill; Bangladesh Harvests Rainwater to Ease Water Crisis

China lawyer sues oil giants over spill

A Chinese lawyer is suing a state-owned energy giant and its US partner over a huge oil spill off China’s northeast coast, amid public anger over the resulting pollution, state media said Wednesday.

More than 2,100 barrels of oil and oil-based mud — a substance used as a lubricant in undersea drilling — have leaked from two platforms in Bohai Bay jointly owned by ConocoPhillips and China’s CNOOC.

Jia Fangyi filed the private lawsuit against the two companies with three courts in China, demanding they “immediately stop polluting the environment and clean up the pollution”, the state-run Beijing Times newspaper said.


He also pressed the companies to set up a 10-billion-yuan ($1.6-billion) compensation fund to pay for damages caused by the pollution and restore the area’s ecological system, it said.

Local fishermen have blamed the spill for the loss of much of their seasonal harvest, while environmental groups signed an open letter to ConocoPhillips calling for faster and more transparent clean-up efforts.

Meanwhile, Jia also plans to bring the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) to court for “administrative unresponsiveness” because it delayed reporting the oil spill to the public for a whole month, the report said

Dhaka turns to rainwater harvesting to ease water crisis

Bangladesh plans to begin requiring rooftop water harvesting systems in new buildings in Dhaka in an effort to address the city’s worsening water shortages and curb drops in groundwater levels.

The amendment to the city’s building codes is expected to be in place this year, said Sheikh Abdul Mannan, director of planning for Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha, Bangladesh’s capital development authority.

“In this system, a portion of water would be used for drinking and other household activities and another portion will directly go to underground water reservoirs,” Mannan added.

Water shortages are an annual occurrence in Bangladesh’s largest city during the peak of the dry season in April and May.

Dhaka requires 2.4 billion litres of water a day, but can only produce 2.1 billion, according to the country’s national Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA). Unofficial estimates suggest the supply gap may be even larger.

Norway Sees Longer Oil Era as North Sea Find Offers Hidden Giant

Norway may slow a decade-long slump in oil production after a series of discoveries from the Arctic to the North Sea.

Statoil ASA (STL) has made two offshore finds of more than 250 million barrels of oil equivalent in Norway this year. The country’s biggest oil and gas producer yesterday said Aldous Major South and Avaldsnes in the North Sea are part of one “giant” oil field, and among Norway’s top 10 discoveries. The discovery is less than 10 feet away from where Total SA (FP), then Elf Aquitaine, drilled a dry well in 1971, according to Statoil.

“This shows Norway still has the capacity to deliver world-class discoveries,” Tim Dodson, Statoil’s exploration chief, said in Oslo yesterday. “It’s probably the largest offshore oil discovery anywhere in the world this year. It has given the entire oil industry renewed optimism.”

Norway, the seventh-biggest oil exporter, is facing dwindling production due to maturing fields. Output peaked in 2000 and may drop 6 percent this year to about 1.7 million barrels a day, according to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate. Statoil, which operates 80 percent of Norway’s production, missed its 2010 target and may produce less this year than last.

Threatened species yield ground to loggers [in Australia]

Victoria’s old-growth forests could be opened to more logging under a state government plan to dilute environmental laws designed to protect threatened species.

The Age has learnt that the Department of Sustainability and Environment is quietly examining Victoria’s 23-year-old Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act so that the existence of animals deemed threatened or endangered is less likely to derail logging proposals.

It follows a landmark Supreme Court ruling in August last year banning VicForests from logging old-growth forest at Brown Mountain in East Gippsland after an environment group produced video footage of an endangered long-footed potoroo in an area to be felled.

Senior department and government sources have confirmed the government wants to overhaul the act amid concerns that environment groups are becoming increasingly skillful at capturing footage of endangered species to thwart logging operations.

Nordic carbon fund buys 4.6 million U.N. CO2 credits

The Nordic Environment Finance Corporation Carbon Fund (NeCF) has closed deals to buy 4.6 million U.N.-backed carbon credits from 10 clean energy projects in India and southeast Asia, it said on Tuesday.

“We are closing a large number of projects with a view to meeting the 12/12 registration deadline for EU ETS (emissions trading scheme) eligibility from projects not located in the least developed countries,” said Ash Sharma, NEFCO vice president and head of carbon finance and funds unit, in a statement.

Two projects are in western India, several are in southeast Asia, including four small hydro power plants, a biomass project and a waste heat recovery power generation plant in Vietnam, and there is an energy efficiency project in the Ukraine.

Under the U.N.’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), companies can invest in emissions cuts in emerging nations and receive credits called certified emissions reductions (CERs).

NeCF said it also intends to buy CERs from eight clean energy projects in Vietnam, Thailand and China.

Brazil’s Cosan posts net profit of $1.44 billion

Brazil’s leading sugar and ethanol group Cosan posted a quarterly net profit of 2.3 billion reais ($1.44 billion), up from 400,000 reais a year before, after the creation of a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell Plc, a market filing said early on Tuesday.

Excluding one-time effects on its results, including most notably the merger of the company’s local assets with Shell into the joint venture Raizen, net earnings over the first quarter would have been 167.5 million reais.

The company said adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization — an indication of cash flow known as EBITDA — reached 439.9 million reais, down from 475.7 million reais a year before.

Malians reforest climate-threatened delta

Farmers in a fertile area of central Mali sustained by the Niger River are replanting forests that are dwindling due to a shortage of rain, hoping to protect the wildlife on which their incomes depend, including fish, birds and hippos.

After the rains start in late June, the Niger River inundates the Inner Niger Delta, a 30,000 square km wetland in central Mali’s semi-arid Sahel belt. The region, whose flood plains lie below sea level, is covered with floodwater from June to February, turning it into a network of ponds and lakes interspersed with forest.

The flood forests are a breeding ground for fish, which local people catch and sell in other parts of the country. Farmers also grow a natural fodder — the aquatic bourgou grass — which is used for cattle feed.

But the wetland region — home to one million people — has lost much of its forest cover in the last two decades mainly because of climate change, experts say.

“A steadfast rainfall shortage since the late 1980s is drying up the numerous ponds and reducing the size of the flooding zone where the forests exist,” explains Mory Diallo, a researcher working in the delta for Wetlands International, a Netherlands-based NGO.