Fast Company

What Spill? Chevron Starts Deepwater Gulf Drilling

The dust has settled on the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, the U.S. government has lifted its moratorium on Gulf drilling, and now Chevron has announced that it plans to file an application for deepwater drilling permits in the area. This oil giant doesn't have the abysmal safety record of BP -- but that doesn't mean environmentalists can let their guard down.

The company has been accused of cutting corners in the past. A lawsuit seeking compensation for environmental damages alleges that between 1964 and 1990, Chevron dumped 18.5 billion gallons of toxic waste sludge into streams and rivers in Ecuador's Amazon rainforest, where the company was drilling for oil. Chevron vigorously denies responsibility for the spill and has presented its own evidence to that fact.

Just this past June, a leaky Chevron pipeline spilled 33,000 gallons of oil into a Salt Lake City creek. The company was also recently involved in a spill in Angola, but it hasn't revealed the oil spill's size. A 2002 oil spill in Angola prompted the country to fine Chevron $2 million in environmental damages. That spill was caused by badly maintained pipes.

Even more disturbingly, Chevron recently began exploratory drilling in Canada's Orphan Basin on a project that will set the record for the country's deepest offshore oil well. Chevron told regulators five years before the drilling that it didn't have the capabilities to clean up a big oil spill in the region. If the company is willing to drill without a backup plan, that makes it just as dangerous as BP to Gulf communities (note: Chevron tells us that Canadian regulators reviewed and approved the company's oil spill response plan for the Lona O-55 well in the Orphan Basin offshore Newfoundland). We'll be watching.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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  • Tyler Gray

    The second paragraph of this story was edited to make clear Chevron's position with regard to the Ecuador spill. A link is forthcoming to some of that specific evidence. We've asked further into whether Chevron has a specific plan in the event they cause a spill in the Gulf. As soon as we receive a response, we'll add that to this post.