Chevron Insults and Attacks Indigenous People in Ecuador, Counter-Sues

Chevron must have been jealous of BP in 2010, because it is taking corporate irresponsibility to another level in Ecuador.

UPDATE: Chevron has just been ordered to pay $8 billion in damages in a court ruling on Monday, February 14, 2011.

More updates on this story: Updates on Chevron-Ecuador Controversy (posting on February 17, 7:00am EST)

Chevron-Ecuador Backstory

Chevron has dumped tons and tons.. and tons.. of water containing numerous carcinogens in the rivers and streams of several Ecuadorian tribes. It even admits this part of the story. However, it claims that it has not caused harm to a single soul. Wow.. ignorance or what? Amazon Watch reports:

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.

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.

Yet, somehow, Chevron is certain it has not harmed anyone!

Several independent studies in academic journals, however, find otherwise. They “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 Karen 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 lead scientific expert for the Ecuador trial, who has been paid at least $5 million for working on this trial and has worked with Chevron for approximately two decades, has claimed under oath in the U.S. that his company never found Chevron harmed a single soul all across the world. Saintly company, Chevron is.

A jury in Alabama last year rejected this “scientific expert’s” claim and a $19 million judgement was issued to Chevron.

For the Ecuador case, Amazon Watch reports the following:

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.

Let’s hope common sense and analysis of the scientific evidence give the indigenous tribes in Ecuador a little bit of relief (of course, nothing can compensate for the suffering and death).

Chevron’s Last-Ditch Threats and Legal Hail Mary

Going into the next phase of this case, getting ready for a trial that it looks like Chevron would have to buy to win, the oil giant decided to try to turn the table. Chevron recently:

threatened the trial judge with criminal liability for refusing to grant the oil giant’s motions to dismiss the case; sued each of the 47 impoverished indigenous and farmer plaintiffs in Ecuador’s rainforest in New York federal court; sought an unprecedented injunction from a U.S. federal judge to bar any American lawyer from enforcing a judgment out of Ecuador anywhere in the world; and finished its 13th day deposing one of the plaintiff’s American lawyer, apparently breaking the record for the longest deposition of a lawyer on a sitting case.

The company also filed a civil RICO suit in New York yesterday, claiming the indigenous groups were trying to extort money from Chevron via the lawsuit.

Could it get any more absurd and insulting?

“Chevron is acting out of pure desperation because we are nearing judgment,” said Hinton. “The company’s new legal actions are designed to intimidate lawyers and funders and to provide a fake cover story for shareholders when the company is hit with an adverse judgment.”

“Irrefutable scientific truth will triumph over Chevron’s intimidation tactics and desperation,” said Pablo Fajardo, the lead attorney in Ecuador in the case.

“We will not be frightened by corporate bullying,” added Fajardo. “Chevron is trying to turn the victims of its own unlawful misconduct into criminals. We will not stand for it.”

“Chevron is cornered by the overwhelming evidence and is desperate to escape the court of its own choosing,” added Hinton. “Chevron fought for ten years to move this case from the United States to Ecuador. Now that the evidence is in, Chevron is running away from these very courts.”

Amazon Watch, one of the organizations working on behalf of the Ecuadorians, in response to the recent attacks writes:

Chevron is adding insult to injury with its heinous attacks on the indigenous and campesino communities who have already suffered for decades from the company’s criminal misconduct in Ecuador.

More than 17 years after the Ecuadorians sued to demand cleanup of one of history’s worst oil disasters, Chevron is now persecuting the victims of its pollution in the same U.S. court from which the company successfully removed the case nearly a decade ago.

This story deserves to go viral. The heinous efforts and Chevron to not take responsibility for their actions and compensate the hurt Ecuadorians are beyond immoral. Hopefully, justice will be served and this continuously insulting ill-treatment will soon come to an end.

Photo Credit: Rainforest Action Network

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