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Brazilian Officials Determined to get Revenge on Chevron
May 11, 2012 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Brazilian officials say they're determined to get revenge on Chevron after an oil spill at an offshore platform in November. Federal prosecutors are suing Chevron for $11 billion for alleged environmental costs, and some Chevron and Transocean executives could face prolonged jail sentences in connection with the incident. "I want to see the CEO of Chevron swim in that oil," says one state official.
posted by stoneweaver (33 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Single page version of the main article: How Brazil is making an example of Chevron.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:55 AM on May 11, 2012


I just bet you that Brazil has WMDs around somewhere that a multi-national military alliance led by a major North American power might need to do something about.
posted by spicynuts at 7:56 AM on May 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


My gut reaction is, this is how all governments should be representing the interests of their citizens and their collective interest in their natural areas in the face of corporate extraction and profiteering within their borders when things go wrong and huge messes result.
posted by hippybear at 8:00 AM on May 11, 2012 [50 favorites]


Brazilian whacks management
posted by zippy at 8:02 AM on May 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


The article provides some interesting framing. Apparently applying the law to companies is now "revenge" and "making an example". Further down in the article the author can't fathom why they would come after Chevron even after they have apologized. Then there's the excuse that the stuff they're doing is risky as if that absolves them somehow.
posted by patrick54 at 8:06 AM on May 11, 2012 [42 favorites]


If only India had done the same with Union Carbide.
posted by Runes at 8:07 AM on May 11, 2012 [17 favorites]


Hmm, trying to keep up with the neighbors perhaps?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:08 AM on May 11, 2012


hippybear: "this is how all governments should be representing the interests of their citizens and their collective interest in their natural areas in the face of corporate extraction and profiteering within their borders when things go wrong and huge messes result."

I agree, but it's worth noting that this isn't a "big corporation unethically ravages Brazil" scenario. Nor does this particular case appear to be a huge mess.

Brazil and her citizens have worked hand in hand with the oil industry to milk their oil deposits for every last penny. The Brazilian government is majority shareholder in the 8th largest company in the world: Petrobas. That company is the largest in Latin America and had a legal monopoly in Brazil until about 15 years ago. When the initial oil fields were discovered in '74, and then again over time as additional fields have been found, (this is touched on in the article) Brazil took full advantage, and has consistently, aggressively pursued its own financial interests with regard to oil. It's paid off, too. Petrobas and every other oil company they've been associated with has poured barrels and barrels of money into the Brazilian economy.
posted by zarq at 8:15 AM on May 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


Hmm, trying to keep up with the neighbors perhaps?

Except that Repsol wasn't responsible for a massive oil spill and that the expropriation was carried out by decree, whereas Brazilian authorities are going to the courts and following due process.

What really strikes me about Brazil compared with other BRICS economies (not to mention Venezuela or Argentina) is how they've been doing things by the book, scrupulously respecting the rule of law. They have some pretty clever people taking decisions there.
posted by Skeptic at 8:19 AM on May 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


In the late 90s I took a class at university called "Philosophy of Conservation Biology". One of the topics we focused on was environmental legislation. Brazil was discussed insofar as it has the toughest environmental laws in the world, but enforcement is totally selective and usually tied to bribes.

So, you know: Good on Brazil for enforcing laws. Would that it could do so consistently without enforcement being a prelude to corruption.
posted by fatbird at 8:21 AM on May 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Except that Repsol wasn't responsible for a massive oil spill

Neither was Chevron apparently, which is why this level of scrutiny is prompting articles:

Deepwater Horizon spill: @4,900,000 barrels of oil
This spill: 2,400 barrels of oil
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:32 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I want to see the CEO of Chevron swim in that oil."

this kind of bad-ass attitude kind of makes me grin.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:33 AM on May 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


You can't say "Brazilian officials say they're determined to get revenge" unless a Brazilian official (preferably more than one) has said they are determined to get revenge.
posted by fartron at 8:35 AM on May 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Interestingly, state owned oil producer Petrobras has leaked oil from a neighboring field. Do you think they will be held to the same standard?
posted by shothotbot at 8:37 AM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Interestingly, state owned oil producer Petrobras has leaked oil from a neighboring field. Do you think they will be held to the same standard?

That's what I think will be interesting to watch. I'm certainly all for tight regulation on this dirty industry. What I wonder though is this move intended to ensure saftey and clean practice, a way to gouge Chevron, or the beginning of a way to secure energy rights? Maybe a little of all three?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:40 AM on May 11, 2012


Petrobras is also a 30% stakeholder in the Frade field (where this leak occurred), shothotbot, and expects to be on the hook for a piece of the damages, according to the linked article.

Also according to the linked article, the government official pursuing Chevron today pursued Petrobras ten years ago after a Petrobras rig exploded and killed 11 workers.

Guts aren't reliable. That's why we need transparent analytic and legal processes.
posted by notyou at 8:48 AM on May 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


“There is no doubt that an offense occurred,” declared Fabio Scliar, chief of the Brazilian federal police department’s environmental division. “What interests me now is determining the responsibilities.”

“Chevron takes full responsibility for this incident,” he said at a press conference in Rio on Nov. 21. At a congressional hearing in Brasília two days later, he added, “Sincere apologies to the Brazilian people and the Brazilian government.”


This is strange, a lot of legal maneuvering and table-thumping by politicians over a relatively small oil spill that Chevron has claimed responsibility for and is facing millions in fines (though not billions.)

I think this is the buried lede: Chevron got caught up in Brazilian political crosscurrents having little in particular to do with the U.S. company but revealing much about the delicate state of Brazil’s burgeoning oil industry.

posted by chavenet at 8:54 AM on May 11, 2012


Brazil makes an example, an EPA regulator in the US says 'crucify' and he, not a company is crucified. USA #1
posted by narcoleptic at 8:55 AM on May 11, 2012


This was a relatively miniscule spill @ 2,400 barrels. I have no doubt that the ocean can safely swallow that much oil without any long-term environmental consequences. I can't help but conclude that this is an effort by Brazil to harass a foreign energy company (and help its national champion, Petrobras).

Metafilter environmentalists: please don't be credulous suckers.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:07 AM on May 11, 2012


Brazil is a nation that loves their beaches.
posted by dobie at 9:13 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brazil makes an example

Well, no, not really. One government official does some grandstanding knowing full well that the actual judicial results will bear no relation to his wildly exaggerated claims. This is hardly a story of evil corporate misdeeds finally receiving their due punishment.
posted by yoink at 9:17 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter environmentalists: please don't be credulous suckers.

Shed no tears for Chevron. It is a massive corporation with more money and power than some states, operating in a sector that is rather well-known for cutthroat behavior. The portrayal of the American country manager in the article as a meek and mild individual is, frankly baffling.

Oil is a high-stakes game for both corporations and governments. If Brazil wants to shaft Chevron for Petrobras, so fucking what? It is, as Tony Soprano would say, nothing personal. It's just business.

Their games don't make a lick of difference to the rest of us mere mortals.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:31 AM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Isn't this the case where oil is leaking not from the wellhead or drilling equipment or something obviously drilling-related--i.e., it's not a blowout or a spill--but from from seabed fissures some distance away? How do you prove causation in a case like that, where it could be totally natural and unrelated; even if it's but-for causation or something broad? Will all owners of offshore leases or property now be liable when up from the ground comes a bubblin' crude?
posted by resurrexit at 9:40 AM on May 11, 2012


Stupid Brazilians. When someone spills oil in your oceans, you are supposed to apologize to them for the hassle they are going to have to deal with.

(Also, if someone shoots you in the face, you are supposed to apologize to them as well.)
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:55 AM on May 11, 2012


Also, if someone shoots you in the face, you are supposed to apologize to them as well.

Yeah, that's about right.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:12 AM on May 11, 2012


I'm sorry, but this is how it should be done.

If a CEO can sit in front of the board and say "The company is doing well because of me. Give me more money..." they cannot sit in front of a committee or criminal proceeding and say "I didn't have anything to do with those decisions, don't blame me."

You can't have it both ways. Is Mike Brown allowed to say "Don't look at me. The players sucked tonight. I didn't have anything to do with them sucking."

Of course not. That would be silly.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 10:34 AM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Brazil and her citizens have worked hand in hand with the oil industry to milk their oil deposits for every last penny.

That's a sunk cost. They went into business with a bad partner... then made the best of said scenario... now they're enforcing laws as they're written.

That being said, I'm not seeing "revenge" or any of the other trigger words being applicable here.
posted by Blue_Villain at 11:11 AM on May 11, 2012


2,400 barrels is 2,400 barrels too much. Good on Brazil, fie on the framing in the article. Would that all resource extraction companies were held to such standards and that all environmental laws were as stringent.
posted by ooga_booga at 2:06 PM on May 11, 2012


Stuff like this makes me wish I learned more about Brazil than what I could glean from Blanka's storyline in the Street Fighter series.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 2:17 PM on May 11, 2012


Uther Bentrazor: "Stuff like this makes me wish I learned more about Brazil than what I could glean from Blanka's storyline in the Street Fighter series."

It makes me wish I'd taken that job there when I was 19.
posted by wierdo at 5:02 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is about Brazilian nationalism. Ever since oil was discovered here in the 30s, Brazilians were bombarded with "O petróleo é nosso!" (The oil is ours! There was even a movie with that name), a slogan that was part of the constant patriotic propaganda by our right-wing dictatorships (Vargas and the military). Drilling for oil was a state monopoly.

In the 80s and 90s, the military stepped down and the right wing position was reversed under Collor, now it was all about neoliberalism and privatization of former state enterprises. Drilling by foreign companies was allowed in 1997.

Ironically, the dismantling of the state economy inherited from the military right wing was seen as a betrayal of national interests by the new left.

Now we have a leftist government, and the general feeling among Brazilians is still that "the oil is ours" and that it's a mistake to let foreign companies extract it.

So it's already a sore spot. An ecological accident on top of that? No matter how minor, if it's the fault of a foreign company it is a huge, huge thing for us. "Gringos come here and mess with our environment". But if this was our own fault? Meh.

ps. we love Blanka
posted by Tom-B at 5:03 PM on May 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


People know about Texaco/Chevron's history in Ecuador, right? The rape of the Amazon, all that?

Chevron's fight to get the class action brought against them in by native communities and other stakeholders transferred to Ecuador (under the old neoliberal regime) which went sour when Correa came to power? The huge $ 18.2B verdict against them, and now their fight to prevent enforcement of the judgment back home, based on questionable legal tactics and possible corruption.....

This just happened:
Ecuador: Council Upholds Dismissal Of Judges Involved in Chevron Case


Uh-oh.


Crude: The Movie

ChevronToxico: The Campaign for Justice in Ecuador

and no one learns.....
Between Midnight and Rooster's Crow (the new OCP pipeline and EnCana, which has since fled).
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:54 PM on May 11, 2012


2,400 barrels is 2,400 barrels too much. Good on Brazil, fie on the framing in the article. Would that all resource extraction companies were held to such standards and that all environmental laws were as stringent.
In small quantities, it shouldn't be a problem. It seeps from the sea floor naturally, etc.

If it's actually this small amount, it does sounds like nationalistic grandstanding, and wanting to get rid of foreign oil companies. There were plenty of politicians in the U.S. who made harsh statements about BP, it wasn't just the idiots apologizing to them.
posted by delmoi at 9:44 PM on May 11, 2012


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