Brazil charges Chevron with environmental crimes in oil leak

“Not even one sardine perished” in the spill.”

The Wall Street Journal reports:

A Brazilian prosecutor filed criminal charges Wednesday against Chevron Corp., Transocean Ltd. and their top executives in the country for an offshore oil spill in November, raising fresh questions about the legal perils of drilling for Brazil’s deep-sea riches.

Energy analysts said the environmental-crimes charges—against the firms, 16 of their employees and a subcontractor—are likely to send a chill through an offshore-drilling industry unaccustomed to prosecution for what companies view as inevitable accidents.

The federal prosecutor, Eduardo Santos de Oliveira, is seeking to seize assets from both companies and their employees in Brazil and is calling for the companies to each pay a $5.5 million bond. Mr. Oliveira has charged George Buck, president of Chevron’s Brazil operations, and Guilherme Dantas Rocha Coelho, Transocean’s director general in Brazil, as well as employees ranging from a geologist to a reservoir engineer.

Mr. Buck was also charged with obstructing the government’s investigation, along with three other Chevron employees. He faces up to 31 years in jail if convicted of all charges. A judge will now decide if those charged will face trial, in a case legal experts said could take years to wind through the courts…

“Not even one sardine perished” in the spill, Oscar Graca Couto, a lawyer for Chevron, said at news conference in Rio de Janeiro…

The charges are the most serious fallout yet from the Nov. 7 leak. The drilling incident caused up to 3,000 barrels of oil to seep through cracks in the Atlantic Ocean floor some 230 miles off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. Chevron, owner of the well in the Frade field, hired a Transocean rig and crew to drill the well.

Chevron stanched the leak within days but has struggled to manage the backlash from Brazilian authorities, who have fined the company millions of dollars and barred it from drilling. The storm was inflamed last week when the San Ramon, Calif., oil giant identified a new fissure on the sea floor leaking oil near where the first leak occurred. Chevron says “intermittent droplets” are leaking and that it is capturing them with an underwater device…

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