RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept 13 Chevron Corp,
the No. 2 U.S. oil company, signed an accord on Friday that
could lead to the end of civil lawsuits seeking $17.5 billion in
damages for a November 2011 oil spill, the company's lawyer in
Brazil, Oscar Couto, said.
The agreement includes about 300 million reais ($130
million) in compensatory actions for the 3,600 barrel spill, in
the ocean northeast of Rio de Janeiro. Of the total, 95 million
reais are for social and environmental projects unrelated to
Chevron's own operations, the company said.
"With the signature of the accord, which commits Chevron to
unprecedented measures to prevent new incidents and
compensations for the spill in the Frade Field, the two lawsuits
could be resolved," the prosecutor's office said.
The lawsuits are the largest environmental action in
Brazilian history. The spill did no discernable ecological
damage, never came close to Brazil's coast and injured no one,
the country's petroleum regulator said in a 2012 report.
Criminal charges were dropped in February.
Chevron executives were not immediately available for
Transocean Ltd, which was Chevron's drilling
contractor at Frade at the time of the spill, also signed the
accord but is not involved in the settlement. Chevron said in
late 2012 that it would take full responsibility for the
accident. If the lawsuits are dismissed, Transocean will be
freed from the potential penalties.
The agreement, also signed by environmental protection
agency Ibama and oil regulator ANP, will monitor Chevron's
performance in the future, Gisele Porto, the prosecutor
responsible for the case, said.
"It is all so much easier when the company in question comes
to you and says they want to work things out; that's what
Chevron did," she said. "Otherwise this case could have dragged
out over years."
Chevron now expects that a judge will dismiss the lawsuits,
said Rafael Jaen Williamson, a Chevron spokesman.