When Chevron's drilling operation near Rio de Janeiro accidentally caused a leak in the sea floor last November, it served as a sobering wakeup-call for many Brazilians as to the dangers of deepwater oil exploration off their pristine coast. At the time, officials had promised that the responsible party would be brought to bear for what is the worst spill in recent memory -- but as it turns out, that means only a slap on the wrist.
In the days and weeks following an incident in which an estimated 3,700 barrels of crude were leaked into the waters off of Rio, Brazil's National Petroleum Agency (ANP) seemed poised to throw the book at Chevron for their role in and mismanagement of the disaster. Yet, in addition to a suspension of drilling rights in the nation's oil-rich Frade Field, authorities eventually announced that Chevron would be fined a whimpering $28 million -- a mere pittance equating to half-a-day's profit for the multi-billion dollar oil company.
But just when you thought that that feathery financial blow for Chevron's role in a major oil spill couldn't get any featherier, it just did. On Monday, ANP director general Magda Chambriard revised the Chevron's fines to $17.3 million, and suggested that banning them from drilling might be off the table too. From NineMSN:
Chambriard said ANP would appeal the court decision on the suspension of Chevron's operations "so as not to hurt oil production in Brazil," the state Agencia Brasil reported.
Brazil's state-owned oil giant Petrobras needs Chevron's assistance for its own operations.
While Chevron is no doubt thrilled to have such an ally in Brazilian energy officials, and vice versa, pretty much everyone else should be concerned. After all, when environmental disaster is met with nominal punishment, pretty much everyone stands to lose.