Accused of Using Political Pressure and Junk Science to Evade Court Judgment Over "Amazon Chernobyl"
Amazon Defense Coalition
13 February 2009 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Quito, Ecuador - Chevron's legal department was blasted today by the leaders of indigenous groups in the Amazon for engaging in misconduct in an effort to sabotage a lawsuit in Ecuador over environmental contamination where the company faces a potential $27 billion liability.
Chevron has admitted that Texaco dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways, decimating five indigenous tribes and causing an outbreak of cancer. The court-appointed expert, who worked with a team of 14 other scientists, determined that 1,041 cancer deaths in an area the size of Rhode Island could be attributed to Chevron's sub-standard operational practices.
Chevron bought Texaco in 2001 and will bear any liability for clean-up of the area, which some experts call the "Amazon Chernobyl".
Pablo Fajardo, the lawyer for the indigenous groups, said Chevron General Counsel Charles James has orchestrated "a pattern of deception and misconduct shocking for a high official from a public company." Fajardo said he had evidence Chevron engaged in several corrupt acts intended to intimidate the judge and damages expert into abandoning the trial, which is expected to end later this year.
Fajardo added that comments made by James today in a Chevron press release, alleging without proof that an independent court expert was cooperating with the plaintiffs, were "false and defamatory" and could expose Chevron shareholders to additional liability.
Among Chevron's misconduct in the Ecuador trial, said Fajardo:
- Chevron's lawyers in Ecuador have tried to intimidate and harass the court-appointed expert, Richard Cabrera, by stalking him while collecting soil and water samples that would prove the existence of unsafe levels of toxic contaminants. The impediments were so significant that the presiding judge was forced to order police protection for Cabrera to enable him to carry out his court mandate.
- Chevron insisted that Cabrera take "blind" soil samples to ensure that the laboratory equipment was working properly, an expensive practice that was undertaken with the understanding that the company would pay for it. Chevron subsequently refused to pay for the processing of the samples, presumably out of fear that the testing would provide additional proof of contamination.
- Chevron's engaged in the manufacture of junk science. The company ignored sound scientific practices by taking water and soil samples at higher elevations than the sources of contamination. Chevron also faked its laboratory results by using an inappropriate test.
- James is intentionally distorting facts by alleging that Cabrera is "cooperating" with the plaintiffs. The reality is that Cabrera - as is standard in legal cases in Ecuador and around the world - consulted with both parties in order to fulfill his court-ordered mandate. The report prepared by Cabrera relied substantially more on evidence provided by Chevron's than that provided by the plaintiffs.
- Chevron has consistently tried to politicize the trial by pressuring Ecuador President Rafael Correa to extinguish the legal claims of the plaintiffs. When he resisted, Chevron has repeatedly lobbied the U.S. Congress to cancel successful foreign trade pacts with Ecuador to "punish" the country for letting its citizens exercise their legal rights against Chevron.
- Chevron has consistently tried to obstruct and delay the trial by violating the due process rights of the plaintiffs. Employees of the company interfered with evidence gathering by fabricating a security threat to delay a critical inspection on indigenous territory. Lawyers for the plaintiffs have received death threats, the court expert's office was mysteriously robbed of case materials, and a press spokesperson for the plaintiffs was assaulted.
James, Chevron's General Counsel, is a former disciple of Attorney General John Ashcroft and is a practitioner of Karl Rove-style politics, according to Karen Hinton, the U.S. spokesperson for the indigenous groups in Ecuador. He has employed a number of Bush-administration loyalists in his legal department, including infamous author of the Pentagon "torture memos," lawyer William J. Haynes.
"Charles James needs to adapt to the demands of the modern energy industry where working in an environmentally sustainable way is seen by investors to be as important as making profits," she said.