Brazil Arrests 17 Chevron Oil Execs for “Environmental Crimes”
Seventeen Chevron and Transocean executives were formally charged with environmental crimes in an oil leak off Rio de Janeiro’s coast amid prosecutor calls for damage payments and prison sentences.
The companies applied excessive pressure when drilling at Chevron’s Frade field, used faulty equipment and failed to meet requirements to avoid and counter spills, the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement Wednesday. George Buck, head of Chevron in Brazil, and other executives were also charged with obstructing a probe. Prosecutors asked for prison sentences of as much as 31 years for the executives.
The 3,000-barrel slick at Chevron’s $3.6 billion Frade project in November occurred at a time Brazil is increasing scrutiny of deepwater drilling following the 2010 Macondo spill in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Chevron was “careless” when drilling the well, Rio de Janeiro State Environment Secretary Carlos Minc said earlier Wednesday.
“All evidence shows that Chevron acted carelessly,” Minc, a former Brazilian environment minister, told reporters in Rio de Janeiro. “It was too eager and didn’t respect agreements with regulating agencies.”
In an e-mailed statement, Chevron called the charges “outrageous and without merit.”
“Chevron will vigorously defend the company and its employees,” spokesman Kurt Glaubitz wrote.
Prosecutors are asking each company to pay $5.5 million and demanding about $549,100 from each executive for damage to the environment. Michael Legrand, Transocean’s head of operations in the country, is also among the 17 executives who were banned from leaving Brazil this week during the prosecutors’ probe.
Chevron, the second-biggest U.S. oil company by market value, suspended production in Brazil last week after identifying a second leak at the Frade area.
The oil seep near Chevron’s Frade project this month didn’t come from the field where a spill occurred in November, Glaubitz said in an e-mailed response to questions.
Chevron has 15 days to respond to the Brazilian oil regulator’s report on the spill, said Magda Chambriard, the head of the agency known as the ANP. She said there were “no problems” with the Transocean platform used by Chevron.
ANP will complete its final report on the leak after the U.S. oil producer replies to questions and expects to take a month to study the responses, Chambriard said.
The state of Rio, where most of Brazil’s crude is produced, is proposing the country monitor fields by satellite and make producers’ geological studies public to boost transparency and scrutiny after the Chevron spill, Minc said.
“Our measures are not excessive,” Minc said. “We’re not after Chevron because it’s foreign.”
This article appeared on page D – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle