Direct Appeal Made By Amazon Watch To Save Indigenous Lives In Rainforest
29 September 2006 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
San Ramon, CA - A leading environmental group today urged thousands of Chevron employees to challenge company management over the oil company's continued refusal to clean up billions of gallons of toxic waste dumped into Ecuador's rainforest over a 28-year period.
The request came in an open letter to employees of the oil giant from Amazon Watch, an environmental and human rights group that has been campaigning to force Chevron to clean up the devastating toxic waste dumped across an area the size of Rhode Island from 1964 to 1992. Chevron is currently a defendant in a landmark $6 billion environmental trial in Ecuador, and also is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for covering up the potential liability from shareholders.
Additionally, Ecuador's government has filed a claim against Chevron in U.S. federal court in New York regarding the results of a purported "remediation" in the mid 1990s.
"Chevron is not telling you the truth about the situation it left behind in Ecuador's Amazon rainforest," the letter says, adding: "Cancer rates have skyrocketed in the region. Five indigenous groups that live in the area have been devastated, and two are close to disappearing altogether."
Amazon Watch supporters handed out copies of the letter in front of the oil giant's global headquarters in San Ramon. The letter comes after Chevron's CEO, David O'Reilly, repeatedly refused to respond to the concerns of Amazon Watch and other human rights and green campaigners regarding the Ecuador disaster.
"O'Reilly is putting lives at risk in Ecuador by continuing to deny Chevron's responsibility," said Atossa Soltani, Amazon Watch's Executive Director. "We decided to appeal directly to employees, who have been misled by management about the risk the company faces in Ecuador."
Chevron admits it dumped into the rainforest 18 billion gallons of formation waters, a toxic byproduct of the drilling process loaded with heavy metals, carcinogens and crude oil. It did so in violation of the standard industry practices of the time to save approximately $3 in operating costs per barrel of produced crude.
As a result, Chevron is now desperately defending itself in the environmental class-action lawsuit in Ecuador, brought by 30,000 impoverished rainforest residents. A final judgment is expected next year.
Despite the gravity of the situation in Ecuador, the letter to employees ends on a conciliatory note. It states: "Even at this stage, a sharp change of direction in Chevron's strategy, both in and out of court, could make Chevron an industry leader that lives up to its stated values of social and environmental responsibility not only in San Ramon, but in the global community as well."
Soltani said: "We have always been available to dialogue with company officials, but company officials clearly are not willing to meet with us."