13 April 2012

Oil spill battle spreads

The battle between energy giant Chevron and the Brazilian authorities hotted up last week as commentators predicted the California-based company is soon to be spending more time with its lawyers than it does drilling for oil in the country.

'Lone gunman' prosecutor goes big exec hunting

Local trade unionists were the latest group to step into the fight, as the country’s largest oil workers union filed a civil action that aims to force Chevron and its drilling contractor out of Brazil entirely.
That comes on the heels of a suit brought by a federal prosecutor in Rio, who, according to the Financial Times, is suing Chevron and contractor Transocean for $11 billion in damages relating to two oil spills. And as we reported in our last issue (see The Global Legal Post, 30 March 2012, p7), that prosecutor is demanding prison sentences for 17 senior Chevron employees, including the company’s local head, George Buck.

'Lone gunman'

Forbes magazine names the ‘lone gunman’ prosecutor as Eduardo Santos de Oliveira, pointing out that he has more than Chevron in his sights. ‘He is also investigating the National Petroleum Agency and even the Environmental Institute of Brazil, Ibama, which oversaw and later fined Chevron for the spill,’ reports the magazine.
The FT maintains that some Brazilian politicians are becoming wary of the prosecutor’s tactics. The newspaper says many describe ‘the accusations as … “excessive” and “without merit”. Not only was the leak relatively small at no more than 3,000 barrels, but no oil reached the coastline and there has been no evidence of environmental damage.’
With legal action very much up in the air, one point is clear in the saga: it is the only story that currently brings a smile to the faces of BP executives.

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