Amazon Defense Coalition
30 August 2007 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at 703.798.3109 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Quito, Ecuador - With much fanfare, Chevron recently announced the appointment of an "independent" expert to monitor a trial in Ecuador where the company faces a potential $10 billion-plus liability for dumping toxic waste into the Amazon rainforest.
As has become standard with Chevron in this high-profile trial, there is much more to the story than meets the eye.
What Chevron doesn't say is that its new "expert", Ralph Marquez (pictured), is actually a George Bush insider and Karl Rove disciple whose main expertise is using junk science to protect some of the United State's worst corporate polluters. Marquez is a former lobbyist for the Texas chemical industry, but in a classic Karl Rove maneuver, later was appointed by then Governor Bush to be one of the top environmental stewards in Texas where he tried to weaken the very environmental laws he was sworn to enforce.
Even worse for Chevron, Marquez's educational background indicates he has little experience in the areas of hydrology, chemistry, petroleum engineering, or geology - making him utterly unqualified to judge evidence in a trial about oil-related contamination.
"Marquez is a paid Chevron lobbyist masquerading as a scientist," said Pablo Fajardo, counsel for the 30,000 plaintiffs in the case. Fajardo added: "Marquez used junk science to engage in a series of corrupt practices on behalf of George Bush when he was Governor of Texas that were designed to benefit corporate polluters and campaign contributors. Marquez is now being paid to perform the same corrupt tasks in Ecuador on behalf of Chevron, which not coincidentally has been a major financial contributor to George Bush's political career."
These are some of the career highlights from Marquez:
With Marquez as its top environmental official and George Bush as its Governor in the mid 1990s, Texas consistently ranked last in air quality among the 50 states. While Marquez was charged with protecting air quality in Texas, every major urban area of the state - with a total population of 12 million people -- failed to meet federal minimum air quality standards.
As the first Bush appointee to the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC) (the highest Texas agency to protect the environment), Marquez convened 11 major industry polluters to secretly write a plan for "voluntary pollution abatement" - an eerie precursor to Vice President Cheney's industry-dominated secret energy commission during the first term of President Bush. A later investigation revealed the plan was written by lobbyists for Exxon and Marathon Oil.
In a typical Karl Rove tactic, Marquez claimed in his public statements as chief of the TNRCC that air quality improved in Texas when science showed it got dirtier. During his stint at the TNRCC, Texas had more emissions of neurotoxins than any other state, and its citizens faced a higher risk of cancer than the citizens in any other state, according to Environmental Defense.
Marquez was a lobbyist for Texas Industries (TXI), the single largest polluter in North Texas, as late as 1994. The very next year, as head of air quality for the TNRCC, he produced a report that permitted TXI to increase its hazardous waste burning from 100,000 to 270,000 tons per year. Marquez also successfully pushed for permits to allow TXI to construct a new toxic waste incinerator.
Marquez was sent by the Administration of then-Governor Bush to Washington to testify against Clinton-era ozone regulations to protect urban air quality and minimize childhood asthma. At the time, Marquez argued that ozone at ground levels was "benign" - a position so far out of the scientific consensus that it is akin to arguing global warming does not exist.
Before he joined the Texas state government, Marquez worked for several years as a lobbyist for Monsanto. Monsanto makes Agent Orange, a toxic chemical responsible for the deaths and genetic defects of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese civilians. Chevron also reportedly used Agent Orange to clear out jungle in Ecuador to build its oil production facilities.
While at Monsanto, Marquez lobbied to protect the company from liability for its manufacture of a controversial and highly poisonous herbicide called Roundup. In 1997, New York sued Monsanto for claiming that Roundup was "biodegradable" and "environmentally friendly". Roundup is the toxin being used as part of the Bush-backed Plan Colombia to wipe out cocaine production in that country. Roundup is being sprayed in Colombia at concentrations 26 times greater than those allowed in the U.S., leading to negative health impacts for tens of thousands of Colombians.
Marquez surely faces a tough task in Ecuador, given his personal history and the amount of evidence against the oil giant.
The Ecuador lawsuit accuses Chevron of dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste directly into the rainforest and abandoning over 1,000 open-air toxic waste pits. Global Environmental Services, an Atlanta-based company that assessed the damage, called the area the "Rainforest Chernobyl" and estimated clean-up would cost at least $6 billion. Given other categories of personal and health damages, the final tally for Chevron if it loses the case likely will be much higher.
Worse for Chevron, there are currently close to 80,000 chemical results in evidence from soil and water sampling in the 1,700 square mile area where the company operated. The vast majority of the results show dangerous levels of toxins, including Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons at thousands of time higher than maximum levels permitted in the U.S. Most of the sampling results have been produced by Chevron itself, making it even more difficult for the oil company to argue there is no harm from its operations.
Three indigenous groups say they are on the brink of extinction as a result of Chevron's dumping while hundreds of residents in the area have contracted cancer.
Currently, a court-appointed expert is calculating damages and conducting additional field sampling. The damages assessment is expected to be completed this fall, with a final decision by the court in 2008.
Chevron's "appointment" of Marquez in Ecuador has no legal effect. Should Marquez produce a report, it will not be part of the evidence in the case.