Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chevron Using Ad Campaign to Cover-up Ecuador Environmental Disaster

In the face of an pending potential multi-billion liability in Ecuador for illegally dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste directly into the Ecuadorian rainforest, Chevron has unveiled a new ad campaign titled "We Agree." The advertising campaign – a slick, multi-million dollar investment in image management by the company, seeks to trumpet all that the company is doing to "do the right thing" as a community member and environmental steward. However, the company – while plunging millions of dollars into advertising, lobbying, and legal fees – has done nothing to cleanup the actual damage caused by its substandard oil drilling operations in Ecuador. Instead, the company is fighting to undermine the courts after hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence have established a mountain of evidence that the company has contaminated an area of Ecuador the size of Rhode Island. For more information take a look at the press release below from the Amazon Defense Coalition:

Chevron's Misleading Ad Campaign Ignores Toxic Legacy in Ecuador Rainforest

New Video Provides Devastating Proof of Chevron Toxic Pits in Ecuador

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Chevron's abandonment of hundreds of toxic waste pits in Ecuador is being highlighted in a new video by the environmental group Amazon Watch as leaders of indigenous groups from that country blasted the oil giant for launching a misleading advertising campaign designed to cover up its massive environmental liabilities.

"The reality is that Chevron has devastated dozens of indigenous and farmer communities in Ecuador"

The video, which can be seen on www.chevrontoxico.com, shows the devastating effects of the pits Chevron gouged out of the jungle floor decades ago and outfitted with gooseneck pipes to drain waste into streams that thousands of indigenous inhabitants relied on for their drinking water.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Chevron built and abandoned an estimated 916 of the pits in a 2,000-square mile area of Ecuador's rainforest; none of them have been properly remediated, and most still leech cancer-causing toxins into groundwater, streams, and soils, according to the video.

The exact number of Chevron's abandoned waste pits is unknown because Chevron never kept a log of the locations of each pit, according to a report on the contamination aired by 60 Minutes.

Several peer-reviewed health evaluations have found elevated rates of cancer in the area where Chevron operated, and one American expert recently submitted a report
concluding that up to 10,000 faced a significant risk of contracting cancer in the coming decades because of the pollution.

The Amazon Watch video highlights a waste pit at Aguarico 4, one of 356 well sites that Texaco (now Chevron) operated in Ecuador when it ran an oil concession from 1964 to 1990.

Chevron is now a defendant in a multi-billion lawsuit in Ecuador that alleges it deliberately discharged more than 18 billion gallons of toxic "formation water" into rivers and streams, causing the worst oil-related contamination on earth. The plaintiffs have estimated damages at higher than $100 billion.

In the meantime, Chevron's new ad campaign was blasted by leaders of the Amazonian communities suing the oil giant. The Wall Street Journal showed a picture of one ad, which said "Oil Companies Should Support the Communities They're A Part Of". It then said, "We Agree."

Leaders of the affected communities in Ecuador said they considered the campaign "green washing" and asked that Chevron remove the ads from circulation.

"The reality is that Chevron has devastated dozens of indigenous and farmer communities in Ecuador," said Luis Yanza, an Ecuadorian who coordinates the case against Chevron. "Chevron saying it cares about communities is certainly not our experience here in Ecuador, where people are hurting because of the company's operations."

Chevron is certainly spending far more on the ad campaign than it ever spent on remediating its toxic waste pits in Ecuador, said Yanza.

"The company's brand would improve more by doing an actual clean-up rather than acting like it cares when it doesn't," he added.