Amazon Defense Coalition
27 April 2009 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
WHAT: Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on the link between environmental degradation and human rights norms.
WHO: Steven Donziger, attorney representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Chevron and representatives of other indigenous and traditional people in Nigeria and West Papua.
WHERE: 2200 Rayburn House Office Building
WHEN: April 28, 10:30 am
Exploring the specific examples of communities in Ecuador, Nigeria, and West Papua, the Commission hearing will analyze the relationship between environmental degradation and human rights, particularly in relation to indigenous and traditional peoples around the globe. The historic Ecuadorian environmental case – Aguinda v. ChevronTexaco – deals with what many experts consider the worst oil-related disaster on the planet. The lawsuit alleges that Texaco, now owned by Chevron, used a variety of sub-standard production practices in Ecuador that resulted in thousands of illnesses and deaths. The plaintiffs assert that five indigenous groups have had their traditional lifestyles decimated, and one group (the Tetetes) has disappeared. Chevron has admitted that Texaco dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways, abandoned more than 900 waste pits, burned millions of cubic meters of poisonous gases with no controls, and spilled more than 17 million gallons of oil due to pipeline ruptures. Texaco never conducted a single health evaluation or environmental impact study while it was the operator. Experts estimate the damage is 30 times larger than that of the Exxon Valdez disaster. The company's own environmental consultants found oilfield practices used by Texaco that were clearly sub-standard. Texaco fought for nine years to avoid trial in U.S. and transfer the case to Ecuador, claiming Ecuador's courts were a fair and an adequate forum. In 2002, Texaco won that battle but was forced by the U.S. court to submit to jurisdiction in Ecuador and be bound by any ruling there. The Aguinda lawsuit was re-filed in May 2003 in Ecuador. The trial began in October 2003. As scientific evidence began to demonstrate Chevron's culpability, the company initiated a campaign to attack the trial process as unfair.