18 December 2013 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Oakland, CA – Today, a dozen prominent environmental and human rights organizations including Amazon Watch, the Sierra Club, 350.org and Food and Water Watch issued a public letter condemning Chevron's actions in its decades-long legal battle to evade responsibility for deliberately dumping billions of gallons of toxic wastewater into the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador.
"Chevron's actions set a dangerous precedent and represent a growing and serious threat to the ability of civil society to hold corporations accountable for their misdeeds around the world," the groups state in the letter. The letter further details Chevron's attacks on free speech, vilification of anyone critical of its actions, and active undermining of justice systems both in Ecuador and the United States. Due to Chevron's actions, independent journalists have been forced to turn over their material and nonprofit watchdog groups have faced massive legal actions designed to cripple their ability to work and intimidate supporters.
In 2011, Chevron lost the legal battle in Ecuador and was ordered to pay $9.5 billion for cleanup operations. Although the decision was recently upheld by Ecuador's supreme court, Chevron refuses to pay. The case has plagued the oil company for years as a growing number of journalists, environmentalists, and human rights and socially-responsible investment advocates have continued to pressure the company to accept its responsibility.
Just yesterday the communities affected by Chevron's contamination in Ecuador achieved a significant victory in their epic battle for justice when an Ontario appeals court ruled they have the right to pursue enforcement of a $9.5 billion Ecuadorian court judgment against Chevron's estimated $15 billion in assets in Canada.
Facing growing international and domestic pressure and a worsening image, Chevron has sworn to "fight until hell freezes over, and then fight it out on the ice." The company has taken this aggressive attitude to the extreme by attacking its own victims in Ecuador, calling the plaintiffs in the case criminals and filing a RICO suit against them. As part of this effort, as Katie Redford of Earthrights International writes, "Chevron launched an unprecedented and widespread attack on its critics in this case." She continues to warn that, "the aggressiveness and vigor with which Chevron has been allowed to pursue such tactics is new, and other corporations are following suit."
"If Citizens United gave unprecedented political power to corporations, this effort from Chevron is offering a way for any corporation to crush anyone critical of their efforts," said Paul Paz y Miño of Amazon Watch.
A broad range of environmental and human rights organizations, many of which have no direct connection to the Ecuador case, sponsored the public letter. Additional organizations and prominent individuals in the fields of environmental protection, human rights, workers rights and corporate accountability are expected to add their names in the coming weeks.
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune added, "The people of Ecuador have a right to defend their families from oil industry pollution. Journalists have a right to expose the reckless practices that are destroying Amazon communities and ecosystems. Chevron's bullying tactics undermine those rights, and the Sierra Club supports the individuals and organizations that are standing up to Chevron's irresponsible corporate behavior."