Greenpeace activists protest using simulated oil to protest an oil spill in an offshore field operated by Chevron Corp, outside Chevron's offices in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday Nov. 18, 2011. The Brazilian Federal Police on Thursday began investigating an oil spill in an offshore field operated by Chevron Corp., a leak that an environmental group alleges is far bigger than the company has stated. The leaking well is part of the Chevron-operated Frade project, located underwater off the northeastern coast of Rio de Janeiro state. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Court officials in Brazil indicated they will not pursue criminal charges against Chevron, oil driller Transocean Ltd., and several executives in connection to an oil spill off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, according to reports.
Seventeen of the companies' executives faced charges of "crimes against the environment" and could have been jailed for up to 31 years, according to the Associated Press.
Judge Marcelo Luzio returned the charges to prosecutors, who now have five days to appeal the ruling. There was no immediate comment from prosecutors.
While the criminal charges are dropped, the companies are still on the hook for massive civil penalties stemming from the spilling of 155,000 gallons of crude oil in Nov. 2011. Civil levies are seeking $20 billion in damages.