Tuesday, April 27, 2010

More On Chevron’s Lies To Dupe Columbia Journalism Review

In a previous entry, we detailed how Chevron lied to Columbia Journalism Review writer Martha Hamilton about the operation of a well site called Shushufindi 38 in the Ecuadorian rainforest and the amount of toxic contamination at the well to convince her that 60 Minutes had not been fair to Chevron in its coverage of an environmental lawsuit against the oil company for extensive oil contamination.

Chevron told her the government-owned oil company Petroecuador operated the site, and fecal matter, not oil, had contaminated the well. Both statements are flat-out lies that Hamilton accepted as fact but 60 Minutes checked and, as a result, did not report.

Upon further review, it looks like Chevron also lied to her about the drinking water well site near the oil well site.

A water sample taken in the trial directly from this freshwater well showed toxic levels of likely carcinogens and harmful heavy metals that are derived from oil, including benzo[a]pyrene, indeno[1,2,3]pyrene, and cadmium. The U.S. government has determined that each of these chemicals are likely or probable carcinogens, as reflected in a toxic substance registry maintained at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. See this press release about the water well.

In her critique of the coverage, Hamilton wrote that the news show should have stated Petroecuador was responsible for the cleanup of the well site under a 1995 agreement. (It's unclear if she meant drinking water or oil well, but either way both has dangerous levels of contamination.)

But the agreement she references is the centerpiece of the legal dispute, as 60 Minutes clearly says. Following the visuals of Shushufindi 38, the news show states:

"Chevron says the pollution is now the responsibility of Petroecuador. That dispute is at the heart of the lawsuit."

Even though Hamilton says she is not weighing in on the merits of the lawsuit, one has to wonder why she did not contact the plaintiffs to check basic facts, something that we are sure Columbia Journalism Review would encourage all journalists to do.