RIO DE JANEIRO — Oil giant Chevron has agreed to pay $155 million to Brazil for an oil spill last year that fouled beaches in Rio de Janeiro, officials said Saturday.
Government news service Agencia Brasil said about $45 million would be used exclusively for environmental cleanup and about $110 million would serve for measures to prevent future spills.
Federal prosecutor Gisele Porto said that the fine should send a message to all oil producers that “it is better to invest in preventive measures than to pay a fine for polluting.”
An official from Chevron Brazil, Rafael Jaen Williamson, said the company admitted guilt for the disaster and made the payment to show that it was prepared to make amends.
“We are prepared to invest our resources in social-development projects and environmental, preventative and compensatory measures,” he said.
The November 2011 spill saw an estimated 3,000 barrels of crude soil the waters of the Atlantic near the Frade oil field, located about 230 miles northwest of Rio.
Merger brings new pacts to United pilots
Pilots at United Airlines are getting a new union contract that brings the airline closer to finalizing its merger with Continental.
The vote gives the pilots a single union contract covering those who came from United as well as those who came from Continental before the carriers merged in 2010 into United Continental Holdings Inc.
Pilots are getting raises averaging 43.2 percent, including bigger retirement contributions. The deal also makes United the third of the three big U.S. airlines to win pilot permission for a major expansion of the use of larger regional jets with 70 or more seats.
The Air Line Pilots Association said Saturday that 67 percent of the United and Continental pilots who voted elected to approve the contract. All told, nearly 98 percent of the 10,193 eligible pilots participated in the ratification vote.
Diet Pepsi quietly switching sweeteners
NEW YORK — If that can of Diet Pepsi tastes sweeter than normal, there’s a reason.
PepsiCo Inc. is quietly changing the sweeteners in the drink, with the goal of helping the soda maintain its potency longer. Cans of Diet Pepsi around the country now list a mix of two artificial sweeteners, a pairing that is commonly found in newer diet sodas.
Previously, Diet Pepsi used only aspartame, which is sensitive to heat and breaks down more easily.
This summer, PepsiCo had declined to say whether it would go ahead with such a change after reports surfaced that it was testing the new sweeteners. The switch is only intended to help prevent the taste from degrading over time, but companies are sensitive to public perceptions that they might be tinkering with major brands.
Cash-strapped nation presses drive for oil
HAVANA — Cuba is moving fast to try to tap subsea oil wealth, and will start work in “days” with Russia’s Zarubezhneft, drilling this country’s deepest offshore well yet, state oil firm Cubapet said Saturday.
“Cubapetroleo reports that [Norwegian-owned] semisubmersible platform Songa Mercur has arrived offshore off the north-central coast to continue in a matter of days offshore exploratory well-drilling work,” said a statement in Granma, the Communist Party of Cuba’s newspaper.
The Norwegian-owned machinery run in partnership with the Russian company will tap exploratory well L-01X, down to 21,325 feet, the deepest drilled to date in Cuba. Work is expected to go on for about six months, the statement added.
Songa Mercur is replacing the Italian-owned Scarabeo 9, which was used but failed to strike usable crude three times. The nearby United States voiced concerns about potential for catastrophic environmental damage in the event of an accident, in Cuba’s still-untested industry.
Energy is Cuba’s Achilles heel, and it relies heavily on close ally Venezuela and its socialist President Hugo Chavez for its cut-rate supplies.
With Mr. Chavez, 58, recovering from more cancer surgery here, Cuba has never been in as big a hurry to try to achieve energy independence.
Cheaper gas lowers consumer prices 0.3%
A steep fall in gas costs pushed down a measure of U.S. consumer prices last month, keeping inflation mild.
The seasonally adjusted consumer price index dropped 0.3 percent in November from October, the Labor Department said Friday. Gas prices fell 7.4 percent, the biggest drop in nearly four years, although they are still much higher than they were in 2008. The drop offset a 0.2 percent rise in food prices.
In the past year, consumer prices have risen 1.8 percent, down from October’s 12-month increase of 2.2 percent.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports