In Final Argument, Oil Giant's Tally for Clean-up is "Zero" Despite Dumping Billions of Gallons of Waste Into Amazon
Amazon Defense Coalition
7 February 2011 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Lago Agrio, Ecuador – Chevron has found that dumping of billions of gallons of toxic waste into Ecuador's Amazon didn't harm a single person or the environment, according to the company's final argument submitted to the Ecuador court hearing the historic environmental case.
Chevron denies in the 292-page document that there are damages despite admitting during the trial that it dumped billions of gallons of chemical-laden "water of formation" into the streams and rivers of the Amazon that indigenous groups relied on for their sustenance. The indigenous groups are now decimated because of the toxic waste, according to evidence submitted to the court.
"The plaintiffs have not established that there was any negligence" on the part of Chevron in its operations in Ecuador, the company claims in the document "The plaintiffs have not proven the existence of the supposed damages ... that they allege in their lawsuit," it added.
Curiously, Chevron's final argument – called the "alegato" in Ecuador – can not be found on the company's website or in its press materials. The company for weeks has refused to publicize its final argument in a case the company claims that it should win based on the evidence.
"Chevron is embarrassed to promote a document that is so clearly misleading," said Karen Hinton, a spokesperson for the 30,000 plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit. "Chevron's final argument makes a mockery out of the evidence at trial and is so deceptive that not even Chevron wants people to read it."
Chevron from 1964 to 1990 operated a large oil concession in an area of Ecuador the size of Rhode Island, reaping billions of dollars in profits before pulling out of Ecuador in 1992.
Chevron has admitted during the trial that it created in Ecuador a system of oil extraction that led to the deliberate discharge of more than 16 billion gallons of chemical-laden "water of formation" into the streams and rivers of Ecuador's Amazon, home to six indigenous groups.
The dumping of the toxic "formation water" was confirmed by the company's own environmental audits by environmental sampling, and by Rodrigo Perez Pallares, Chevron's legal agent in Ecuador who admitted to the practice.
The lawsuit also accuses Chevron of abandoning more than 900 unlined waste pits gouged out of the jungle floor that leech toxins into soils and streams; contaminating the air by burning the waste pits; dumping oil along roads; and spilling millions of gallons of pure crude from ruptured pipelines. Internal company documents demonstrate that Chevron officials ordered field workers to destroy records of oil spills, that the company refused to develop an environmental response plan or pipeline maintenance program, and that Chevron never conducted a single health evaluation or environmental impact study despite the obvious harm it was causing.
Chevron's "alegato" claims that not even one person in Ecuador was harmed by the company's operations, even though several independent studies in academic journals suggest dramatically higher rates of cancer and other health problems in the region where the oil giant operated. Studies show thousands of people have either died or are at increased risk of contracting cancer due to the contamination.
"Chevron's final argument is scientifically and morally bankrupt," said Hinton, the spokesperson for the plaintiffs. "It is just astonishing that a public company continues to bury its responsibility for causing a flagrant and ongoing human rights violation that is putting thousands of lives at risk."
Chevron's "alegato" in Ecuador continues the longstanding practice of the company of ignoring scientific evidence and denying all responsibility for causing environmental harm.
Chevron's lead scientific expert in the Ecuador trial, the American John Conner, has admitted under oath in U.S. court that his company never found that any of Chevron's activities worldwide have harmed a single individual. Conner has been working for Chevron on a variety of lawsuits for most of two decades and has been paid at least $5 million for his work in the Ecuador trial.
The Connor testimony in a trial last year in Mississippi, was rejected by a jury and resulted in a $19 million judgment against Chevron.
The plaintiffs submitted the first part of their "alegato" on January 18, finding "irrefutable evidence of contamination" at each of Chevron's 45 well and production sites inspected by the parties during the trial. The chemicals found – all of which are toxic and some of which are known carcinogens – include barium, benzene, cadmium, chromium, copper, etheylbenzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, vanadium, xylene, and zinc. The plaintiff's alegato concluded that the sampling results and other evidence provided by Chevron prove the claims of the plaintiffs.