Chevron's Waste Management "Illegal", Experts Conclude

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Chevron's dumping of massive amounts of toxic waste in the Ecuadorian Amazon was a deliberate flouting of Ecuadorian law and best industry practice that knowingly threatened the health of local residents, an expert report has concluded.

According to the report, from the non-profit environmental engineering consultancy E-Tech International, the dumping, from 1964 to 1990, would have been in violation of contemporary regulations in Louisiana, Texas and California. Texaco (now Chevron) would have been well aware of these regulations as the oil major operated in all three states at the time.

The report authors, geologist Mark Quarles and petroleum engineer Bill Powers, also highlight how the dumping breached general environmental legislation in Ecuador, such as the 1921 Law of Sub-soil Resources (Ley de Yacimientos).

The report has been submitted to the Ecuadorian court hearing a historic class-action environmental lawsuit brought by 30,000 residents of the nation's rainforest. They are suing Chevron for billions of dollars of environmental damages, alleging that Texaco discharged more than 18 billion gallons of formation waters, a toxic by-product of oil drilling, into the pristine Amazon.

The authors write: "Chevron's decision to discharge saline produced water to surface waters in Ecuador was made at a time when these same discharges would not have been allowed in U.S. oilfields in similar situations exactly because it was known that such discharges would have severely harmful impacts on the environment and human health."

They conclude: "Consequently, based on Texaco's awareness of U.S. laws and their compliance with them in their U.S. operations, we conclude that Texaco knowingly used sub-standard technology and knowingly endangered the environment and human health. Had Texaco implemented in Ecuador the practices it followed at its U.S. oilfields, the company would have largely - if not completely - avoided the human and environmental damage that is the basis of the current lawsuit."

The case, which began in 2003, is expected to conclude in 2007.

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