10 October 2017 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Toronto, Canada – Amazon Watch is in Toronto today to stand with the indigenous and campesino communities who have been the victims of Chevron's toxic waste for over five decades. We also denounce Chevron's abuse of the legal system to intimidate and harass its victims, as well as journalists, environmental and human rights organizations, and even concerned shareholders who have expressed support for a just resolution to one of the worst oil-related environmental disasters in history.
In 2013, Chevron was found guilty in Ecuadorian courts for deliberate environmental contamination resulting from Texaco's operations between 1964 and 1992 in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Despite Amazon Watch's warnings to Chevron management, the oil giant bought Texaco in 2001 and inherited the legal liability of the century. Chevron then chose to litigate the case in Ecuador, promising a "lifetime of litigation" and to fight it until "hell freezes over, and then we'll fight it out on the ice."
Texaco dumped more than 16 million gallons of oil and billions of gallons of toxic waste water, and it left behind more than a thousand unlined pits full of drilling waste replete with heavy metals and other carcinogens. Not surprisingly, the people who live there continue to suffer the health effects of drinking, bathing, and fishing from polluted rivers. Thousands have died. Based largely upon the evidence submitted by Chevron itself. the Ecuadorian courts ordered Chevron to pay over US $9.5 billion to fund a clean-up operation and for health assistance.
Failing to honor its prior commitment to respect the Ecuadorian court's judgment, Chevron, under the leadership of CEO John Watson, decided instead to attack and vilify the very people it poisoned for decades in the Amazon. It would be hard to find a clearer example of corporate power running roughshod over those in pursuit of justice. Indeed, the company has apparently spent US $2 billion fighting this case since 1993 rather than simply pay to clean up a toxic mess that it admitted to deliberately creating in the first place.
When Chevron launched its retaliatory SLAPP suit against the Ecuadorians and the lawyers in the United States, it claimed to be the victim of a vast conspiracy of lawyers, activists, environmental NGOs, and even journalists and some government officials. Of course, this case proved to be nothing more than a sham when the oil company's chief witness admitted to receiving millions of dollars to testify for Chevron and provide false evidence. By filing its racketeering suit (under the U.S. RICO law created to bring down the mafia in the 1970s), Chevron successfully misused the U.S. federal court system and bribed a witness in violation of U.S. federal law. It also used that same proceeding to harass and intimidate environmental organizations, including Amazon Watch. This abusive "technique" has been called the "new playbook" for corporations to use against environmental NGOs. Today Greenpeace faces similar attacks by Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Canada has become the latest venue in this epic pursuit for justice because Chevron has fled the scene of the crime. Chevron sold off its assets in Ecuador to escape payment of its $9.5 billion debt, but it holds close to US $15 billion under its subsidiary Chevron-Canada. Many Canadian environmental organizations have already denounced Chevron's actions and stand in support of the Ecuadorians including Friends of the Earth Canada, Greenpeace Canada, Idle No More Canada, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, MiningWatch Canada, RightsAction, Sierra Club British Columbia (BC), Sierra Club Canada Foundation, Unifor, and the United Steelworkers.
Amazon Watch stands with communities across the Americas calling for an end to oil drilling and pipelines, especially dangerous "frontier oil" such as Amazonian crude. Not only have Chevron's past actions been destructive to the environment, but it is also the number one refiner of Amazon crude in California (where the majority of Amazonian oil is refined). "Chevron's current operations are a threat to every living thing on the planet and it must not be allowed to escape justice for its crimes in Ecuador nor its damage to our climate," said Paul Paz y Miño, Amazon Watch Associate Director, who has worked on the campaign for over a decade.