By STAN LEHMAN, Associated Press
SAO PAULO (AP) — A Brazilian prosecutor filed a new $11 billion suit against U.S. oil company Chevron Corp. and drilling contractor Transocean Ltd for a second leak in an offshore oil field.
The federal public prosecutor's office said Wednesday on its website that prosecutor Eduardo Santos de Oliveira filed the lawsuit because of alleged environmental damage caused by oil that leaked from cracks on the ocean floor on March 4. It is near the offshore Chevron well where at least 110,000 gallons (about 416,000 liters) spilled late last year.
That first leak led Oliveira to ask for $11 billion damages from Chevron and Transocean.
Oliveira also wants the two companies to be prohibited from sending profits overseas.
Last month, federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against 17 Chevron and Transocean company executives, accusing them of environmental crimes, of misleading Brazil's oil regulator about safety plans and of not providing accurate information in the wake of the spill.
The executives could face up to 31 years in prison.
A judge must still decide if the case will go to trial, which would be a lengthy process given the number of defendants, the complexity of the case and the Brazilian legal system's room for numerous appeals.
Chevron spokesman Kurt Glaubitz said in an emailed statement the second lawsuit "is another in a series of outrageous actions ... all of which are without merit."
"We are confident that a transparent and impartial examination of the facts will demonstrate that Chevron and its employees responded appropriately and responsibly to the incident," he added.
After last year's leak, Chevron said it had underestimated the pressure in an underwater reservoir, and crude rushed up a bore hole and eventually escaped into the surrounding seabed some 230 miles (370 kilometers) off Rio's coast. The oil escaped through at least seven narrow fissures on the ocean floor, all within 160 feet (50 meters) of the well head.