Brazil announced yesterday that they will fine US company Chevron 50 million reals, the equivalent of nearly 28 million dollars, for causing an oil spill on the coast of Rio de Janeiro which has continued for two weeks. The fine is the maximum amount allowed under Brazilian law.
Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira, stated that the company could face multiple fines if the investigation reveals more infractions. “There could be five or six fines that could reach $50 million (reals, each). The amount will be stipulated by the environmental crime law,” she said. Teixeira also accused Chevron of hiding the accident for too long, not enabling early clean-up operations, and of not having appropriate equipment to contain the leak.
Moreover, the National Petroleum Agency (ANP) and Rio de Janeiro state could fine Chevron. Rio’s environmental secretary, Carlos Minc, told Brazilian media: “We believe the accident could have been avoided. There was an environmental crime.”
Specialists speaking to Brazilian newspaper Estadão and BBC Brazil said that the amount currently imposed is not enough. “The law discourages preventive investments. It is cheaper to pollute than investing in expensive equipment,” said Adriano Pires, director of energy consultants at the Brazilian Centre for Infrastructure (CBIE).
In 2009, Chevron announced plans to invest US$5 billion in oil production in Brazil over a decade. The fine imposed represents less than 1% of that amount.
Brazilian authorities say that more than 400.000 litres has been spilt since the accident happened. The ANP states that the amount spilt is higher; more like 416.000 litres.