Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ecuador: Chevron wants dismissal of environmental case

Lawyers for oil giant Chevron asked an Ecuadorian judge to drop a case involving the illegal dumping of chemicals in the Amazon jungle.

According to a filing with the court, Chevron reiterated its argument against the firm being liable for up to $27 billion in damages. The company claims that a report from geological engineer Richard Cabrera was biased and in favor of the plaintiffs. "Judging by Mr. Cabrera's undeniable disdain for science, transparency and Ecuadorian law, he cannot be seen as an unbiased adviser to the judge," said Charles James, Chevron's general counsel in a press statement emitted by the company.

The plaintiffs in the case are Ecuadorian natives and peasants who argued their health was damaged after Texaco dumped billion of gallons of contaminated water into the jungle over a 20-year period. (Texaco was purchase by Chevron in 2001).

As we mentioned in November, Chevron’s actions caused it to be named one of the world’s ten worse firms of 2008 by progressive news website alternet.org.

Image- Time
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, MarketWatch, Reuters, alternet.org

5 comments:

Justin said...

This is Justin with Chevron. I wanted to take a moment to thank you for reporting on this matter.

What's especially notable about your posting is the accompanying photograph of Petroecuador's operations, Ecuador's government owned oil company. Advocates for the lawsuit against Chevron have long relied on the images and performance of Petroecuador to advance their case. But just this week, Ecuador's state newspaper, El Telegrafo, reported that Petroecuador has sustained more than 1,400 oil spills since 2000:

http://www.eltelegrafo.com.ec/sociedad/ecologia/noticia/archive/sociedad/ecologia/2009/02/09/Gasto-por-remediaci_F300_n-ambiental-baj_F300_-en-2008.aspx.

Other reports from Ecuador suggest that Petroecuador has spilled more than 4 million gallons of oil since it assumed operations in 1990.
Even the author of the flawed damage recommendations, Richard Cabrera, has said that "During my travels and field work, I witnessed the existence of several spills of crude oil from the past few months and years." Yet, he, like the plaintiffs' lawyers, transfer blame to Chevron for these spills as well as the associated impacts. That Chevron should be somehow responsible for Petroecuador operations of the last 18 years defies logic. This is simply one example of the numerous obvious flaws contained in Mr. Cabrera's work. More detail can be found at:

http://www.chevron.com/ecuador/cabrerareportflaws/?view=2

and
http://www.chevron.com/media/VideoPlayer.aspx?VideoId=ChevronEcuador&TB_iframe=true&width=400&height=410.

David M Handelman said...

Let's not confuse the issues here. Petroecuador may have continued damaging the area in similar fashion as Texaco had while operating in the area, probably because they were/are using the equipment that Texaco left behind. Of course, being new to the industry, the Ecuadoreans were relying on Texaco to help set them up, open up the forest, build the pipelines etc.

However, that in no way absolves Chevron of the responsibility for the spilled oil, and the wastewater that was not properly disposed of and the net effects on the health of the people and the conditions of the forest that these caused.

It is no secret now, that Texaco reduced expenses by dumping waste water into unlined open pits rather than injecting it deep into the ground which was common practice for about a decade in the US and around the world before their operations began in Ecuador.

"the company (Texaco) ignored long-established practices of reinjecting waste back into wells. In the United States, most major oil companies have been reinjecting waste back into wells since at least the 1970's." NY Times article by Juan Forero, Oct. 23rd, 2003.

As the level of desperation increases at Chevron, they are increasing their attacks on the plaintiffs, on the court appointed scientists, even Ecuador's trade relationship with the US. If only they had spent nearly as much energy on operating safely from the get-go. The tides have turned against Chevron with the elections of the Eucadorean and US presidents and the overwhelming evidence against them.

I think that Chevron must now take responsibility for their actions, assist with a real clean-up and pay damages to those who suffer health effects in the area.

I am calling for a boycott of Chevron until they agree to do so.
Please sign my petition if you agree with me.
Sign the Petition to Chevron!

Justin said...

In the interest of a more fruitful dialogue about conditions in Ecuador, both past and present, it is worth noting:

1. “…the wastewater that was not properly disposed of…”
This statement is incorrect. For information on produced water, as well as how it was handled, we have posted information at http://tinyurl.com/clomaj.

Moreover, the discharge of produced water is an accepted practice, with 787 million barrels discharged onshore worldwide as recently as 2003.

The most important point, however, is that no one has presented any scientific data to the court corroborating the claims made about produced water. Despite 15 years of litigation, the lawyers behind the lawsuit in Ecuador have only submitted analysis for three samples of produced water and their results have failed to substantiate their claims http://tinyurl.com/cgoly2

2. “…the net effects on the health of the people and the conditions of the forest…”
Of the credible scientific evidence presented in the Ecuador court proceedings to date:

* Greater than 99 percent of all drinking water samples tested are free of harmful levels of petroleum related chemicals and are consistent with World Health Organization and USEPA standards. However, the scientific data analyzed discovered that high levels of bacterial contamination from human or animal waste were present in 90% of drinking water samples, indicating widespread microbial contamination of the water sources. More information on past operations and the question of health can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/cd3952.

3. “…unlined open pits…”
Regrettably, there has been a lot of misinformation presented about pits. According to the USEPA, in 1984 there were 125,000 open pits in the United States, of which 97.6% did not have synthetic liners. With this in mind, I hope we can agree that the use of unlined pits during the time that Texaco Petroleum operated in Ecuador was not an aberration.

When you suggest, “Let's not confuse the issues here,” I would agree. During your 6 weeks in Ecuador, you saw Petroecuador’s operations as well as their unfulfilled cleanup obligations. Texaco Petroleum’s role as operator ended in 1990. Since then, Petroecuador has amassed an environmental track record that most people outside of Ecuador don’t want to talk about. You have written elsewhere that “The time has come for corporations to be held accountable for their actions…” Why shouldn’t Petroecuador be held accountable for its actions as well as its inactions?

Anna Kay said...

Here's an interesting blog about this mess:
http://www.thechevronpit.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Boycott Chevron's blood gas. See the film CRUDE watch 60 minutes/Chevron Read Vanity Fair/Pablo Fajardo
Amazon watch/ Chevron Toxico/ Change.org
In response to the Justin/Chevron post, Justin Higs is paid to spin bad press. In response to the global outcry for justice in Ecuador, Burma, Nigeria etc. Chevron hired more lawyers and a new PR firm powered by lawyers to try to sweep the bad press under the carpet. ergo Justin Higgs
eg. They paid a druglord who tried to bribe a judge in Ecuador, they paid for the layers to defend the druglord. They paid for the propaganda that they put on u-tube and their to undermine the public and the courts. Chevron's answer to the increased cancer in Ecuador is to ask the government in Ecuador cut down our rainfoerest and bring in piped water to a region that never need it before Chevron spilled hundreds of gallons of oil into the rainforest. "It's not the oil in the water, it's the dirt" yeah right! The fish are dead now, the people are dying and Chevron spends their money on advertisement. Latin advertisement! They conducted a poll where latins buy more in convenience stores than other people. We are buying it! My father was made an orphan in Ecuador during Texaco times. He was adopted by an archetect from California working in the region during Texaco times. Justin, I have asked you before and I will ask you again, Have you been to the area where your company spilled the oil? Have you looked into the eyes of the people aho are dying there? Do you have a cunning legal arguement that will make them feel any better? Will you tell those who are dying that there is nothing that you can do about it? That Chevron should be off the hook for a myriad of legal resons like the fact that the president of Ecuador visited them and therefore the plaintiffs should have no case. Tell the dying children that the claims and cries will fall on deaf ears at Chevron. File a petition that slows the process while you check the quarterly profits of your stock. Stand behind a legal arguement, find another loop hole, pay off some governments, have the witmesses killed, start a war if it benefits you. Or go to Ecaudor. Look into the eyes of a child who is dying of cancer and tell them that it is not your fault. They will tell you quite rightly that it is. Only the satifaction of the children dying of cancer will bring me back to a Chevron station no matter who wins this legal fight. I will not buy Chevron/texaco/unica 76 gas, stocks, products, etc. I will not take a flight fueled by Chevron and I will not vote for polititions that accept Chevron's blood money. -Not until they clean up the oil that they spilled in Ecuador.