Brazil judge blocks Chevron, Transocean injunction
By Jeb Blount and Sabrina Lorenzi
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A federal judge in Brazil declined to grant an injunction suspending the Brazilian operations of oil major Chevron and offshore oil-rig contractor Transocean over a November oil spill in the Frade field northeast of Rio de Janeiro.
The injunction was requested by Brazilian federal prosecutor Eduardo Santos de Oliveira as part of his 20 billion real ($11.8 billion) civil lawsuit against Chevron, the field's majority-owner and operator, and Transocean, its drilling contractor.
The rejection of the injunction does not limit or block the civil lawsuit or a criminal case against Chevron Corp, the No. 2 U.S. oil company, and Transocean Ltd, the world's No. 1 offshore drilling contractor, over the oil spill, court documents released on Tuesday showed.
San Ramon, California-based Chevron, which operates the largest foreign-led oil field in Brazil, has already been fined more than $50 million for the spill. Zug, Switzerland-based Transocean has 10 rigs working in Brazil for companies such as Brazil's Petrobras, Chevron and India's ONGC.
The injunction was denied because prosecutors did not show that suspending Chevron and Transocean operations in Brazil would help get the companies to pay for alleged environmental damage, Raffaele Felice Pirro, a federal judge with a court in Rio de Janeiro, said in his decision.
The injunction could be seen as an attempt to punish the companies without a trial, and to do that without giving them a chance to defend themselves, Pirro wrote.
"We do not discuss the seriousness of the oil spill nor the probable catastrophic consequences that come from the accident," the judge wrote. "The supposed responsibility of the defendants will be shown in the proceedings under the guidance of a magistrate, by means of investigation and with the possibility of all parties to manifest their participation in this sad incident."
Santos, the author of the injunction request, heads up the Federal Prosecutors' office in Campos de Goitacazes, Brazil, a city north of Rio de Janeiro and the principal municipality in Brazil's main oil-producing region. Continued...