Sinopec halts China refineries, petrochemical plant amid pollution questions


BEIJING -- One of China's largest energy companies has temporarily shut three subsidiaries and promised to conduct company-wide inspections after a state television report said the subsidiaries had violated environmental laws, in the latest sign of the government's sensitivity to growing discontent over pollution.

China Petrochemical Corp., known as Sinopec Group., ordered the units - two refineries and a petrochemical plant in southern Guangdong province - to halt production while they rectified any problems, it said in a statement this week.

That came after state-run China Central Television reported earlier in the day that Sinopec's refining subsidiary Sinopec Zhanjiang Dongxing Petrochemical Co. and chemical firm Guangdong Zhanjiang New Zhongmei Chemical Industries Co. improperly disposed of waste water.

The report also said another unit, Sinopec Guangzhou Petrochemical Co., illegally stored large amounts of liquid in two tanks designed for emergency use only, posing high environmental risks.

Sinopec also said it sent a team to investigate the subsidiaries and would “severely deal” with those responsible for any infractions.

The state-owned company's response to the reported violations highlights the pressure China's government is facing to resolve environmental problems.

Earlier this year, officials in the southwestern Chinese city of Shifang scrapped the planned construction of a metals factory after thousands of protesters rallied against the project over environmental concerns.

Last year, more than 500 people protested outside a factory making equipment for solar-power generation after it polluted a nearby brook in the eastern city of Haining, and 12,000 demonstrators protested against a petrochemical facility in the northeastern city of Dalian.

In its statement, Sinopec said the reported violations by its subsidiaries weren't “in line with the company's management philosophy and strategy, and violated the company's relevant management systems.”

“We thank the relevant government departments, the news media and public citizens for supervising and criticizing the company,” it added.

Dow Jones Newswires

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