Brazil/New York - A
Brazilian federal prosecutor filed criminal charges on Wednesday against
Chevron and drill-rig operator Transocean for a November oil spill,
raising the stakes in a legal saga that has added to Chevron's woes in
Latin America and could slow Brazil's offshore oil boom.
Prosecutor Eduardo Santos de
Oliveira also filed criminal charges against 17 local executives and
employees at Chevron and Transocean, owner of the world's largest oil
rig fleet. Among the defendants is George Buck, 46, a U.S. national in
charge of Chevron's operations in Brazil, the prosecutor's office said in a statement.
spilling of oil affected the entire maritime ecosystem, possibly
pushing some species to extinction, and caused impacts on economic
activity in the region," Santos de Oliveira, a prosecutor in the oil
district of Campos de Goytacazes, said in the filing. "The employees of
Chevron and Transocean caused a contamination time bomb of prolonged
The charges stem from a
3,000-barrel leak in the Frade field, about 120 km (75 miles) off the
coast of Rio de Janeiro state. They include: failure to realize
protocols to contain the leak; failure to take steps to kill the well
and stop the drilling process; breach of licenses, legal norms and
regulation, including altering documents; and failure to meet legal and
Chevron and Transocean strongly disputed the charges.
charges are outrageous and without merit," Chevron said in a statement.
"Once all the facts are fully examined, they will demonstrate that
Chevron and its employees responded appropriately and responsibly to the
Transocean "strongly disagrees with the indictments," said spokesman Guy Cantwell.
said it stopped the leak in four days. None of the oil that leaked into
the Atlantic reached shore or interfered with marine life, it said.
November, the same prosecutor filed an $11 billion civil lawsuit over
the spill, the largest environmental suit in Brazil's history. Chevron
has already been fined around 200 million reais in fines ($110 million)
for the spill by environmental and oil regulators.
shares dropped 1.1 percent to $107.91 on Wednesday, to their lowest in
nearly a month. Transocean's US-traded shares dropped 1.1 percent to
Observers warned that the
criminal charges could spook foreign companies attracted to Brazil's
offshore oil boom and slow development of more than 50 billion barrels
of reserves discovered here since 2007.
charges are being used by those who want to shut out foreign investment
and vilify foreign companies," said Adriano Pires, head of energy think
tank Brazilian Infrastructure Institute, and a former oil regulator.
Chevron leak was less than 0.1 percent of the size of the 4
million-barrel BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Transocean
also owned the rig in that spill. Past Brazilian oil spills by
state-run Petrobras, including some larger ones, have never prompted
troubles in Brazil could force it to rethink its Latin American
strategies. A shortage of trained workers, engineers and equipment have
driven up costs in Brazil and Chevron faces an $18 billion environmental
verdict in Ecuador.
filings allege that Transocean's Sedco 706 rig, which drilled the well
that leaked, had "grave" equipment failures that were detected by
Brazil's national petroleum agency, the ANP.
addition to Buck, prosecutors leveled criminal charges against other
Chevron and Transocean employees, including five other Americans, five
Brazilians, two Frenchmen, two Australians, a Canadian and a Briton. Among them was Guilherme Dantas Rocha Coelho, 38, the Brazilian head of
Transocean's operations in the country.
were ordered to turn in their passports last Saturday and remain in the
country. Each individual will be required to post 1 million reais
($550,000) bail and each company 10 million reais ($5.5 million) to
ensure payment of future fines.
JAIL TIME UNLIKELY
sentences could be as lengthy as 31 years, the filings said. Oliveira
told Reuters in January that jail terms for the oil workers would be
unlikely and a "last resort." On Wednesday, however, he said the
executives should be jailed.
want them to serve the full time and if they don't it won't be for any
lack of effort by the Federal Prosecutors' Office," he said at a news
conference in Rio de Janeiro.
Brazilian law, a judge must examine the charges and determine whether
to proceed with formal indictments, a process that could take days or
weeks. Either way, Chevron and Transocean likely face years of legal
action in Brazil, one of the world's most promising oil frontiers.
Few individuals or companies have ever been convicted of environmental crimes in Brazil, and fewer have gone to jail.
ROUSSEFF WARNS OIL COMPANIES
charges come less than a week after Chevron asked for and received
permission to temporarily stop production at Frade after finding new
seeps on the sea floor. It was producing 61,500 barrels a day, down from
about 80,000 before the November spill.
has spent more than $2 billion developing Frade, Brazil's largest
foreign-operated field in which the No. 2 U.S. oil company owns a 52
percent stake. Brazil's Petrobras owns 30 percent and a Japanese group
led by Inpex and Sojitz owns 18 percent.
prosecutor alleges that Chevron and Transocean ignored signs that their
drilling could blast through rock and the seabed as they tapped into a
high-pressure reservoir in an area whose faults and fissures made it
prone to an underground blowout. Chevron has said it encountered
reservoir pressure levels far above those in previous wells.
has downplayed the potential for further environmental damage from the
Frade incident, but has pledged to carry out a study of the field's
geology before asking regulators to resume production. Prosecutors said
there could be further leakage, citing evidence of damage to the oil
reservoir. A technical report by ANP has not been made public.
said on Wednesday that oil from the new seabed seep differs chemically
from crude spilled in November, and that the two leaks are unrelated.
Prosecutors allege the newest leak, measured at less than a barrel of
oil, is a worrisome complication of the earlier spill. Brazilian
President Dilma Rousseff, a former energy minister who also served as
chairwoman of the Petrobras board, warned oil companies on Wednesday
that they must strictly follow security procedures in Brazil. "On this
question there can be no exceptions to being within safety limits and
knowing them, to never test them and never go beyond them," she said in
Rio at the swearing in ceremony for the new head of oil regulator ANP.
Washington D.C. - Drought, floods and a lack of fresh water may cause significant
global instability and conflict in the coming decades, as developing
countries scramble to meet demand from exploding populations while
dealing with the effects of climate change, U.S. intelligence agencies
said in a report released Thursday.
assessment reflecting the joint judgment of federal intelligence
agencies says the risk of water issues causing wars in the next 10 years
is minimal even as they create tensions within and between states and
threaten to disrupt national and global food markets. But beyond 2022,
it says the use of water as a weapon of war or a tool of terrorism will
become more likely, particularly in South Asia, the Middle East and
report is based on a classified National Intelligence Estimate on water
security, which was requested by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham
Clinton and completed last fall. It says floods, scarce and poor quality
water, combined with poverty, social tension, poor leadership and weak
governments will contribute to instability that could lead the failure
of numerous states.
elements "will likely increase the risk of instability and state
failure, exacerbate regional tensions, and distract countries from
working with the United States on important policy objectives," said the
report, which was released at a State Department event commemorating
World Water Day.
who unveiled a new U.S. Water Partnership that aims to share American
water management expertise with the rest of the world, called the
"These threats are real and they do raise serious security concerns," she said.
report noted that countries have in the past tried to resolve water
issues through negotiation but said that could change as water shortages
become more severe.
judge that as water shortages become more acute beyond the next 10
years, water in shared basins will increasingly be used as leverage; the
use of water as a weapon or to further terrorist objectives, also will
become more likely beyond 10 years," it said.
report predicts that upstream nations — more powerful than their
downstream neighbors due to geography — will limit access to water for
political reasons and that countries will regulate internal supplies to
suppress separatist movements and dissident populations.
the same time, terrorists and rogue states may target or threaten to
target water-related infrastructure like dams and reservoirs more
frequently. Even if attacks do not occur or are only partially
successful, the report said "the fear of massive floods or loss of water
resources would alarm the public and cause governments to take costly
measures to protect the water infrastructure."
unclassified summary of the intelligence estimate does not identify the
specific countries most at risk. But it notes that the study focused
on several specific rivers and water basins. Those included the Nile in
Egypt, Sudan and nations further south, the Tigris and Euphrates in Iraq
and the greater Middle East, the Mekong in China and Southeast Asia,
the Jordan that separates Israel from the Palestinian territories, the
Indus and the Brahmaputra in India and South Asia as well as the Amu
Darya in Central Asia.
Egypt - A new strain of foot and mouth disease (FMD) has hit Egypt and
threatens to spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East,
jeopardizing food security in the region, the United Nations' Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Thursday.
There have been 40,222
suspected cases of the disease in Egypt and 4,658 animals, mostly
calves, have already died, the FAO said in a statement citing official
disease has circulated in the country for some years, this is an
entirely new introduction of a virus strain known as SAT2, and livestock
have no immune protection against it," the Rome-based agency said.
are urgently needed as 6.3 million buffalo and cattle and 7.5 million
sheep and goats are at risk in Egypt, the FAO said.
area around the Lower Nile Delta appears to be severely affected, while
other areas in Upper Egypt and the west appear less so," Juan Lubroth,
FAO's Chief Veterinary Officer, said, calling for strong action to
prevent the spread of the disease.
is a highly infectious and sometimes fatal disease that affects
cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, goats, cattle, buffalo and pigs.
FMD is not a direct threat to humans.
and milk from sick animals are unsafe for consumption, not because FMD
affects humans, but because foodstuffs entering the food chain should
only come from animals that are known to be healthy, the FAO said.
has some reserves of its own vaccines, but these do not protect against
the SAT2 strain. The country could need regional support in mobilizing
effective ones, the FAO said.
vaccines sometimes taking up to two weeks to confer immunity, joint
efforts to boost biosecurity measures to limit the spread of the disease
are urgently needed, said the FAO whose emergency team visited Egypt
Such measures include
limiting animal movements and avoiding contact with animals from other
farms; avoiding purchasing animals in the immediate term since they
could have come from contaminated sources, preferably by burning
United States - U.S.
cases of tuberculosis fell 6.4 percent in 2011 to an all-time low, but
missed a national target of eliminating the disease as cases among
foreign-born individuals persisted, health officials said on Thursday.
Unless factors change
significantly, the United States will not be able to eliminate TB -
meaning fewer than one case per one million people - until the year
2100, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
the increasing difference between TB rates in foreign-born and
U.S.-born persons is critical for TB elimination," the CDC said in its
weekly report on death and disease, which was released ahead of World TB
Day on March 24.
Overall, U.S. TB
rates last year fell to 10,521 reported cases, or 3.4 cases per 100,000
people, the lowest level since national reporting began in 1953, the CDC
Despite these gains, the
airborne infection is proving difficult to tame in some populations,
especially among foreign-born individuals, blacks, Asians and people
infected with HIV.
TB rates were 12
times higher among people born outside the United States. Of these
infected individuals, more than half of the cases originated in just
five countries: Mexico, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, and China, the CDC said.
with whites, TB rates were seven times higher for Hispanics, eight
times higher for blacks and 25 times higher for Asians last year.
states - California, Texas, New York and Florida - account for nearly
half of all TB cases in the United States, according to the report.
is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. It can be cured
with antibiotics but they must be taken daily for months to be
effective. Because people do not always take the drugs as directed,
multiple drug-resistant strains have emerged.
of TB that are resistant to at least two common treatments, known as
multidrug-resistant TB, accounted for 109 of all U.S. TB cases in 2010,
the most recent year for which there are data. Foreign-born individuals
accounted for 90 of these cases.
were 4 cases of extensively drug-resistant TB - an infection that
resists the most highly effective drugs - reported in the United States
in 2010, all among foreign-born people.
World Health Organization estimates that a third of the world's
population is infected with the bacteria that cause TB. Last year, TB
made nearly 9 million people sick and killed some 1.45 million people,
according to WHO.