Sinopec punished for water pollution

BEIJING, July 4 Wed Jul 4, 2007 10:14am BST

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BEIJING, July 4 (Reuters) - China's top environmental watchdog has told state-owned Sinopec Group, parent of Asia's top refiner Sinopec Corp. (0386.HK), to stop operations at one of its oilfields due to chronic river pollution.

The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) said in a statement that Zhongyuan Oilfields Petrochemical Company, a unit of Sinopec, had failed to meet waste water treatment requirements and had been ordered to pay a pollution fee and told to halt operations.

The report did not specify which oilfield was affected or how much Sinopec had to pay. Sinopec could not be reached for comment.

Six cities, two counties and five industrial parks were also named and shamed by the environment agency this week for their role in polluting four major rivers, including China's longest two, the Yangtze and the Yellow River. Apart from Sinopec, 37 other companies have also been punished for water pollution.

SEPA will not approve any projects proposed by the accused polluters for three months other than treatment plants and recycling facilities, the agency said in a statement on its Web site (www.sepa.gov.cn).

The ban will not be lifted until the sources of untreated waste water are shut down, treatment facilities are installed and regulations that protect violators are overturned, it said.

China has been struggling to change its priorities from growth at all costs to more sustainable development as environmental degradation fuels increasing public discontent and threatens to compromise its economic rise.

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