US oil giant Chevron has announced it will “vigorously” oppose a $5 billion lawsuit filed in the United States by Nigerians residing in the vicinity of a deadly offshore natural gas rig exploration in 2012.
Nigerian coastal residents filed the $5 billion lawsuit earlier this month in a federal court in California, two years after the explosion at Chevron’s offshore gas exploration site in the oil-rich Niger Delta, which killed two workers, burned for 46 days and allegedly poisoned the air and water.
In January 2012, Chevron’s KS Endeavor drilling rig exploded approximately 6 miles of the coast of Nigeria. The company was in the process of drilling a gas exploration well in the Funiwa field off the Niger Delta at the time.
The Nigerian plaintiffs allege that Chevron’s negligence was to blame for the explosion and they are seeking a ruling that would hold the oil giant liable for economic losses and environmental damages.
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The lawsuit alleges that Chevron failed to take the necessary precautions to prevent the explosion and failed to adequately control it with available technology.
Prior to the lawsuit, Nigeria's National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), has recommended a fine of $3 billion dollars against Chevron.
“Chevron [was] primarily concerned with profit while disregarding public and environmental health and safety when undertaking their ultra-hazardous activities on the KS Endeavour by continuing drilling on the gas borehole in the teeth of physical and verbal warnings of impending and imminent danger,” the suit says.
Four transcripts have been handed to Reuters of official accounts from workers who were aboard Chevrons natural gas rig. In 2012, Reuters reported that Chevron left workers “pleading to be evacuated from a gas exploration platform off Nigeria which kept drilling while smoke poured from a borehole until an explosion killed two people as the rig became engulfed in flames.”
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In response, Chevron has stated that it did not receive any evacuation requests from the rig, and that the staff aboard always maintained the power to halt all work if they truly believed working conditions were unsafe.
“We believe that the allegations outlined in the complaint are without merit… Issues related to the incident are already being addressed by Nigerian regulators and the Nigerian legal system and have no place in the US courts,” Morgan Crinklaw, Chevron Manager told media.
Chevron is the third-largest oil producer in Nigeria.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com