Kunming oil refinery environmental report “invalid” say NGOs

PetroChina’s long-awaited EIA report for the oil refinery part of the Myanmar-China pipeline said there would be almost no damage to the environment

The release of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for Kunming’s controversial oil refinery project has led to fresh calls for the project to be reconsidered. Environmental pressure groups, including Friends of Nature, Nature University, Institute of Public & Environmental Affaires (IPE) and Yunnan’s local green NGO Green Watershed, jointly submitted a request to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, citing omissions in the project’s EIA report.

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According to Ma Jun, IPE’s founder, “There isn’t any proof of public participation in the EIA report or its appendix … Also, the conclusion section of the report lacks a summary of public attitudes towards the project.”

The current temporary regulation for public participation in environmental impact assessment requires all EIA reports to include sections on public participation. Green Watershed’s director Yu Xiaogang said that the lack of this section means the approval given by the Ministry of Environmental Protection does not accord with the existing regulation. “Therefore, approval should be revoked,” he said.  

According to the 26-page report, the refinery project, which has the capacity to process 10 million tonnes of crude oil a year, would have almost no harmful impact on the local environment.

Though the release of the EIA report itself could be seen as progress – a government official said in May that the EIA report of the refinery project was listed as an official secret – environmentalists were unimpressed.

“Given the great public environmental interest in this project, PetroChina’s Kunming refinery has disclosed very limited information at this early stage,” said Li Bo from Friends of Nature.

The Kunming oil refinery project was a matching project for the China-Myanmar pipeline which when completed in two years would supply 53% of Yunnan province’s oil consumption, relieving the province from its current oil scarcity.

However, the public has been more worried about the potential production of paraxylene (PX), a carcinogenic chemical used in manufacturing fabrics and plastic bottles. Despite great public concern, and several demonstrations against the Kunming oil refinery project, there was no mention of PX production in the new EIA report.

According to Arthur Mol, director of Wageningen School of Social Sciences, “the absence of transparency and participation generate a lack of trust in design, siting and decision-making of these industrial facilities.”