March 28, 2012 / 12:57 PM / 5 years ago

Brazil oil workers file lawsuit against Chevron

2 Min Read

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil's largest oil workers union filed a civil lawsuit against oil company Chevron and drilling firm Transocean that seeks to cancel their rights to operate in the offshore oil field where they suffered an oil spill last November.

The case, brought by the FUP oil workers federation in federal court, raises the stakes for Chevron (CVX.N) and Transocean RIGN.VX, which are already fighting criminal and civil charges in Brazil that could carry jail terms for their employees and damages of about $11 billion.

Chevron did not demonstrate environmentally responsible practices in its exploration and development of the Frade field in the Campos Basin off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, said FUP representative João Antonio Moraes. The union represents more than 300,000 workers in Brazil's oil industry.

"Chevron lied to the Brazilian state," Moraes told Reuters. "We're seeking the cancellation of their concession in the field where their operations have shown to be predatory and environmentally unsound in their exploitation of resources."

Kurt Glaubitz, Chevron's spokesman in Rio, and Transocean spokesman Guy Cantwell in Houston had no immediate comment on the suit, which was filed over a spill in November that leaked an estimated 2,400 barrels of oil in the Atlantic.

The Chevron leak was less than 0.1 percent of the size of the 4 million-barrel BP (BP.L) oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Transocean also owned the rig in that spill. Past Brazilian oil spills by Brazil's state-run Petrobras (PETR4.SA), including some larger ones, have never prompted criminal charges.

Brazilian oil regulator ANP told a Senate hearing last Thursday that Chevron was not negligent in the drilling of the well that caused the spill, a finding that may help the company in its mounting legal battles in Brazil, one of the world's most promising oil frontiers.

Writing by Reese Ewing and Todd Benson; Editing by Alden Bentley

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