News Pro

Little harm from Chevron November oil spill off Brazil: report

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A November oil spill at an offshore field operated by Chevron Corp. northeast of Rio de Janeiro did not kill or harm marine life, the Globo newspaper said on Wednesday, citing a crime lab report from the Brazilian Federal Police.

The lab report on the spill, completed in April but not seen by the public, was obtained by Globo this week, the paper said, without saying how it got the information.

Brazilian courts and police typically do not allow the public access to criminal investigations and court proceedings until a verdict is reached. Prosecutors and police tend, also, to leak information to the media in high-profile cases. Nearly all Brazilian legal proceedings are conducted in writing rather than in open testimony in court.

Some of the spilled oil could have been absorbed into the ocean floor, according to another newspaper, the Folha de S. Paulo, which had also obtained a copy of the report. The paper cited the report’s authors, Rosemari de Oliveira Almeida and Emiliano Santos Rodrigues.

But federal prosecutor Eduardo Santos de Oliveira, who launched a criminal case against Chevron, several of its employees and its drilling contractor Transocean over the spill, said the report was “a farce,” Globo said.

The crime lab report does not invalidate conflicting studies from Brazil’s environmental and oil agencies about the spill’s impact on marine life, the papers reported.

Brazil’s environmental protection agency Ibama and oil regulator ANP have said there was damage, Folha said. But Silvio Jablonski, a senior ANP official, told a Brazilian Senate hearing in March that Chevron was “not negligent” in the spill, which “caused no discernible damage to the environment.”

Santos de Oliveira, the federal prosecutor, is seeking 40 billion reais ($20 billion) in civil damages from Chevron and Transocean over the spill, which he has described as one of the worst ecological disasters in Brazil’s history.

Globo and Folha said that the Federal Police officer in charge of the case, Fabio Scliar, declined to comment on the crime-lab report.

Chevron and Transocean have said they did nothing wrong and are fighting both the civil and criminal cases.

Officials from neither company were immediately available for comment.

Reporting by Jeb Blount and Reese Ewing; Editing by Bernadette Baum