Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chevron: Don’t believe your eyes…believe our lies!

Chevron's bloggers, who continue to deny the truth about the company's involvement in oil contamination in Ecuador, are upset with a New York Times photo of a waste pit in Ecuador that ran last Saturday.

Chevron apologists such as Carter Wood – who blogs for the National Associat

ion of Manufacturers, which counts Chevron as a major donor – have said the photo is of a waste pit by Ecuador's state-owned oil company, Petroecuador, because the oil is fresh and Chevron left the country in 1992. But in his hurry to carry Chevron's water, Carter again misses the boat with his analysis.

Evidence at the trial demonstrates that Chevron's predecessor company, Texaco, constructed 916 unlined waste pits in Ecuador's Amazon in the 1970s and 1980s. All were gouged out of the jungle floor without lining, in violation of U.S. and industry standards dating to the 1920s. Almost all of the pits had pipes that ran the toxic contents into nearby streams relied on by the local population for drinking water; in most cases, the toxic contents have migrated through the bottom of the pits to contaminate groundwater used for wells by local residents. If you want to see for yourself, check out the 60 Minutes report on the case.

This is clear evidence of the reckless indifference to human life that characterized Texaco's operations and Chevron's defense. Texaco had so little regard for the locals that Chevron had to admit that Texaco never even kept a list of the existence or locations of the pits, each of one of which is a hazardous waste site. The use of these reckless operational practices might explain why several independent health evaluations show skyrocketing rates of cancer in the region, and why the court Special Master found 1,401 excess cancer deaths. If this had happened in the U.S. it would probably be considered negligent homicide – and those that designed and built this system would probably be in jail.

Not that Wood cares. According to him – in a line he lifted directly from Chevron's talking points - if the oil in the pit is liquid then it must have been put there recently, which means the NYT photo could not be of contamination in a pit that Chevron left Ecuador in 1992. That's simply not true, according to evidence at trial. Dozens of Texaco waste pits in Ecuador's Amazon that were never touched by Petroecuador look exactly like the one in the NYT photo – even pits closed down by Texaco in the 1970s and 1980s. Check out this picture (taken in 2005), which is of Texaco site "Lago Agrio 5" which was closed in 1972 – and which hasn't been touched by anyone since it was closed by the company that year. Oil in old pits does not weather in Ecuador because it rains constantly in the Amazon, keeping the sludge in the old waste pits in the exact form one sees in the NYT photo. Even if the pit is now owned by Petroecuador, it does not absolve Chevron of its responsibility for building it, operating it, and abandoning it – and for the continued damage caused by using the same methods by the subsequent operator.

Chevron and bloggers like Carter Wood have consistently lied and misled the public, shareholders, and the media about Chevron's role in Ecuador. Chevron has tried every trick in the book – from creating its own news reports designed to look like CNN reports (including hiring disgraced former CNN correspondent Gene Randall to give the recordings an "authentic" appearance), to its latest Nixon-style dirty tricks operation to undermine the Ecuador trial where Chevron faces a substantial liability. Now, Carter Wood, on behalf of his organization's client Chevron, is asking people to not believe what is evident in a photo.

As Chevron's game of smoke and mirrors unravels, look for more misleading postings by Carter Wood and Chevron's cohort of bloggers. After all, Wood readily admits that he took an all-expense paid trip to Ecuador - paid for by Chevron of course - to get educated (read indoctrinated) on the issue. What he doesn't admit is that he failed to speak to any of the people who are trying to hold Chevron responsible for ruining their land and their lives. As a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism, Wood should know better than to write about an issue without talking to both sides or disclosing that he is paid to support one party to a dispute.

So please Carter, stop trying to fool people with misleading arguments about oil liquidity and photos - people are not that stupid in the reality-based world.