Chinese City Says It Opposes Chemical Project After Protests

The eastern Chinese city of Ningbo said it “firmly opposes” a project to produce the toxic chemical paraxylene, or PX, at a local plant after hundreds of residents protested.

Authorities will halt early work on the facility and study the project further, according to a statement posted late yesterday to the website of the government of Zhenhai district, where the plant is located. More than 1,000 residents protested against an expansion of the plant owned by China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., or Sinopec, Phoenix Television reported.

The Ningbo protests are the latest in a series of confrontations pitting residents against local governments over pollution concerns linked to industrial projects. Thousands of people in the southwestern city of Shifang protested in July over the construction of a molybdenum copper plant, and demonstrators in Dalian, in northeast China, succeeded in getting a chemical factory closed last year on environmental grounds, according to reports by state media.

The demonstrations in Ningbo started on Oct. 24 when about 200 villagers began petitioning over environmental concerns and blocked traffic, the local government said. Paraxylene is a toxic petrochemical used in plastics, paints and cleaning solvents.

Environmental Assessment

Ningbo pledged to conduct an environmental assessment of the facility. On Oct. 27, the official Xinhua News Agency cited Chen Bingrong, the city’s vice secretary general, as saying the the study would be done in a “public and transparent” way and that all details of the project would be released publicly.

While authorities have condemned the organizers of the protests, they said public sentiment would be taken into consideration before construction starts.

The expanded Sinopec plant is designed to produce 15 million tonnes of refined oil and 1.2 million tonnes of ethylene annually and will cost about 55.87 billion yuan ($8.9 billion), Xinhua reported yesterday.

Lv Dapeng, a Beijing-based spokesman for Sinopec, Asia’s biggest refinery, wasn’t immediately available to comment outside of normal business hours yesterday.

— With assistance by Regina Tan

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