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A Chevron Gas Rig in Nigeria Has Been Burning for More Than Three Weeks Now

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil exporter, and as the "headlines continually show":

by Derek Mead
Feb 7 2012, 3:55pm

Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil exporter, and as the headlines continually show, it’s also one of the most troubled. This time, it’s not a pipeline bomb or a botched theft that’s led to massive oil spill. It’s a former Chevron natural gas rig that, after an explosion on January 16, is still burning, with Chevron itself saying there’s no end in sight.

As the rig is close to shore, it’s been poisoning the local environment. It’s killed fish and flooded local waters with toxic byproducts, not to mention the massive air pollution being pumped out. Local drinking water, which is pulled from rivers and already isn’t exactly clean, has been making people sick according to local doctors. The local people need aid, but have yet to receive any aid from the federal government. As the Associated Press reports, Chevron has attempted to help:

Chevron said last week that it was moving “food and supplies to the communities in the area to recognize the help and support that they have given us.”

A report by local watchdog Environmental Rights Action said the area — home to tens of thousands of people — received 50 bags of rice, 50 bags of cassava flour, one cow, vegetable oil, palm and groundnut oil, cartons of tomatoes and canned drinks.

Good on you, Chevron, for such a back-breaking relief effort. You’re really coming through in the clutch when the local waters are polluted and burning. In all seriousness, it’s an atrocious response to a massive disaster, and it begs the question: Once the flames are out, and the camera crews leave, what’s going to be left?

Well, the answer is quite possibly more spills. Chevron’s already been dealing with a huge spill in Brazil that the company first tried to avoid taking responsibility for. They only owned up after Brazil suspended their drilling rights and levied fines that might add up to $100 million. But does that mean the situation’s at least been fixed? No. According to Treehugger, Chevron’s just admitted that the Brazil leak hasn’t yet stopped, and they’re not sure how to fix it.

That sounds eerily similar to what the company is saying in Nigeria: ‘We don’t know when it will stop, and we don’t know how to fix it.’ It’s a situation made worse in Nigeria because the government doesn’t seem too concerned with taking Chevron to task. Both disasters are terrible, and add to the mounting evidence that, when it comes to petroleum production, it’s still not a question of if spills will happen, but if the producers responsible actually do anything about it.