Amazon Defense Coalition
1 March 2012 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
New York, NY – While BP is in settlement talks over the Gulf oil spill disaster, Chevron continues to pout over its $18 billion Ecuador judgment after being found guilty of waging a deliberate multi-decade contamination of the Amazon rainforest.
While BP committed $20 billion to a compensation fund and is in talks to settle an estimated $60 billion in additional liability, Chevron has mounted a campaign to evade the judgment even though the environmental damage and level of human suffering it caused is far greater and has lasted for almost five decades.
A court in February of 2011 found Chevron dumped billions of gallons of toxic water of formation throughout an area the size of Rhode Island, decimating indigenous groups and causing an outbreak of cancer that threatens thousands of lives. See here and here.
"Once it was found guilty and said it would never pay, Chevron became a fugitive from justice," said Karen Hinton, the U.S. spokesperson for the Ecuadorians, who brought their lawsuit in 1993 and waited 18 years for a resolution of their claims.
Hinton said Chevron will face significant operational risks once the Ecuadorians initiate standard enforcement actions against the company's assets around the world, given the decision of Chevron management to flout the court judgment. Chevron will have nobody to blame but itself for any problems resulting from enforcement actions, she added.
"Chevron CEO John Watson is creating a big problem for his company's shareholders because of his utter arrogance when it comes to Ecuador – which is precisely the opposite reaction BP had with the Gulf disaster, where it is trying to deal with its obligations," Hinton said.
Here are the basic facts about Chevron's Ecuador disaster, as found by a court in the South American country that reviewed a 220,000 page trial record accumulated over eight years of litigation:
- Chevron admitted to deliberately discharging more than 16 billion gallons of toxic "water of formation" into Amazon waterways relied on by local inhabitants for their drinking water, creating a cancer epidemic and decimating indigenous groups. See here and here.
- Unlike the BP disaster, which was an accident, Chevron designed its system of oil extraction in Ecuador to pollute the rainforest as a way to cut production costs. This system included 916 unlined waste pits used to permanently store toxic sludge that continue to contaminate soils, groundwater, and streams. See photo of a pit.
- Chevron fought for years to move the trial from U.S. federal court to Ecuador, promising to abide by any adverse judgment. Rather than pay the judgment, Chevron has taken forum shopping to a new level by filing collateral attacks in dozens of courts in the U.S. to sap the limited resources of the rainforest communities.
- Chevron has destroyed documents to cover up its responsibility for contaminating the rainforest in Ecuador. It also refused to line its waste pits knowing the pollution would cause great suffering, claiming it was "too expensive".
- Chevron falsely claims it was "released" by Ecuador's government from further clean-up responsibility based on fraudulent remediation it conducted in the mid-1990s, which led to the criminal indictment of two Chevron officials in Ecuador.
- During the trial in Ecuador, lawyers for the plaintiffs have been subject to death threats, a Nixon-style dirty tricks campaign to entrap a judge, and the use of junk science by so-called "experts" paid by Chevron.
- Chevron cites a flawed study that it paid for to claim high cancer rates are caused not by exposure to toxins, but by the poor personal hygiene among the local population.
- Chevron also has tried to silence its Ecuador critics – pressuring media outlets to deny advertising about the company's human rights problems and even going as far as having five shareholders arrested at its annual meeting in 2010
- One American expert estimated that close to 10,000 people in Ecuador will contract cancer in the coming decades as a result of Chevron's contamination, even assuming a comprehensive clean-up in the coming years. See here. Thousands more have suffered from oil-related illnesses, such as respiratory problems, spontaneous miscarriages, skin diseases and stomach ailments.