BRASILIA - The legal reaction to a Chevron Corp. oil spill in Brazil in November is "out of proportion compared to the event," according to Rafael Jaen Williamson, the oil company's director of corporate affairs.
A Chevron-operated well spilled between 2,400 and 3,000 barrels of oil into the sea off the coast of Rio de Janeiro in November. Brazil on Wednesday filed criminal charges against Chevron and 17 individuals related to the spill.
The prosecutor, Eduardo Santos de Oliveira, accused the firms, 16 of their employees and a subcontractor of environmental crimes and damaging public property. Williamson said Chevron was not negligent in the case, and the company plans to defend itself.
"We will respect and follow the law," Williamson said after speaking to a Brazil Senate committee. "The law allows you to defend yourself, to present your case and to go with that to compare and contrast and defend yourself."
An official from Brazil's oil regulator, the National Petroleum Agency, agreed with Williamson's assessment, telling the Senate committee the agency's report on the leak wouldn't say the spill was the result of negligence.
The head of the committee, Senator Rodrigo Rollemberg, and Prosecutor Santos de Oliveira disagreed with their assessment, however.
Rollemberg said directly that Chevron was negligent, and added that the petroleum agency should have been more rigorous. Santos de Oliveira said that Chevron lacked the ability to manage the accident, and that the state needs to prosecute Chevron to send a message.
"The state needs to respond to show that Brazil is a country that complies with and enforces its own environmental legislation," he told the Senate committee.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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