Negative Publicity Casts Shadow over Oil Giant As It Tries To Explain Liability to Congress and Journalists
Amazon Defense Coalition
5 February 2009 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Washington, D.C. - Chevron's lobbying team is spreading inaccurate information in Congress to combat negative publicity about a $27 billion environmental liability in Ecuador, lawyers for indigenous communities in the Amazon charged today.
The $27 billion liability, assessed in 2008 by an independent court expert in Ecuador, could lead to one of the highest civil judgments ever if the trial judge accepts the report. Chevron reported record profits of $24 billion in 2008 and is under increasing pressure from shareholders to set aside funds to satisfy the Ecuador liability, which could come as early as the summer.
Several in-depth news articles about the lawsuit, including one by the Associated Press and another by Bloomberg Markets magazine, have in recent weeks called attention to Chevron's potential liability. Bloomberg quotes a representative for the New York City pension fund, which owns $470 million worth of Chevron stock, as saying Chevron should consider settling the case.
The lawsuit, which is being heard in Ecuador at Chevron's request, asserts that Texaco dumped 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon over the course of 26 years when it was the sole operator of an oil concession. Five indigenous groups say their traditional lifestyles have been decimated and the court expert estimated 1,041 people have died of cancer due to the contamination.
Chevron bought Texaco in 2001 and has assumed liability in the case.
A Chevron team that includes public relations spokesman Kent Robertson, lobbyist William Irwin, and lawyer Sylvia Garrigo have been making the rounds of Congressional staff and journalists this week. Inaccurate information from the group, some of which was reflected in a Washington Times story today (Chevron Urges U.S. to Revoke Ecuador Trade), was condemned by Pablo Fajardo, the lead Ecuadorian lawyer for the plaintiffs.
"We urge Chevron to respect the law and not interfere with the trial process by politicizing the case in Washington," said Fajardo, a CNN Hero Award winner for his work on the case.
"We also urge Chevron not to spread false information to the public or to the Congress," he added.
Among Chevron's inaccuracies, said Fajardo, are the following:
- Chevron claims it was "released" by Ecuador's government from further clean-up in Ecuador after a partial remediation of contaminated well sites, but the release expressly excludes the private claims being pressed in the lawsuit.
- Chevron claims its limited "remediation" was adequate, but two Chevron lawyers are under criminal indictment in Ecuador for lying about the results.
- Chevron claims the plaintiffs wanted the case moved from the U.S. to Ecuador, but in reality it was Chevron that sought the transfer to avoid a U.S. trial.
- Chevron claims the plaintiffs produced a critically-acclaimed documentary film on the case, Crude, by the Emmy-award winning director Joe Berlinger. The plaintiffs had no role in producing the film, said Fajardo.