Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chevron in the Gulf

Ever since BP’s disastrous oil spill, there have been no new drilling permits in the Gulf. Well, that’s changed and the first company to get a permit…drum roll please… Chevron. Never mind that they have destroyed the Ecuadorian Amazon. Never mind that they have been sued by indigenous tribes for the death and disease they have caused. Never mind that they refuse to take responsibility for their actions. They now get to try the same thing in the Gulf. Because the environment and livelihood of the region haven’t already taken enough of a hit.

The folks over at Rainforest Action Network say it pretty well:

Why is this so appalling? Mainly because Chevron has never met a community it wasn’t willing to pollute if there were profits to be made, which could be seriously bad news for the Gulf Coast residents still reeling from last year’s spill. Chevron doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to protecting the environment, and the company will do whatever it takes to avoid cleaning up its messes. Just ask the people of Ecuador, or the people of Nigeria and Kazakhstan, or even the people right here in Richmond, California — all of whom live every day with pollution from Chevron operations that the company refuses to take responsibility for.
They also recap some of the lessons from last years report The Lasting Stain of Oil.

It’s clear to corporate polluters cover up evidence, don’t take precautions to protect the environment and communities, and use extensive PR to get away with environmental genocide. Chevron has been very effective with this, using their Human Rights Hitmen to avoid all responsibility for what they have done in Ecuador.

With all that has happened to the Gulf in the past year, it is incredibly disappointing that any drilling is happening, much less by Chevron. The region or our world simply doesn’t need to have another ecological disaster at the hands of Big Oil.

Be sure to read the RAN post on Chevron in the Gulf.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ecuadorian and U.S. Judge Base Their Opposing Decisions On Chevron Evidence

So within three weeks of each other, Ecuadorian Judge Nicholas Zambrano and U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan issued opposing decisions about the massive eco-disaster lawsuit in Ecuador. They have, oddly enough, one thing in common: both are based largely on evidence presented by Chevron.

On February 14th, Judge Zambrano awarded the Ecuadorian plaintiffs $9.5 billion in damages against Chevron for the intentional contamination of the Amazon rainforest. He based his judgment on over 60,000 soil and water samples that showed illegal levels of contamination. Over 50,000 of the samples had been taken by Chevron itself, and the rest by the plaintiffs. Judge Zambrano also adopted the conclusions of Chevron’s own expert on the damage costs; Chevron-sponsored consultant Gerado Barros estimated $6 billion in soil and water remediation costs. (The rest of the damage award is for medical facilities, cleaning drinking water and other expenses.)

In other words, Judge Zambrano based his decision mostly on Chevron’s own evidence.

On March 8th, Judge Kaplan granted Chevron a preliminary injunction to prevent the Ecuadorians’ U.S. attorneys from enforcing Judge Zambrano’s February 14th decision on grounds that the decision is fraudulent, citing Chevron’s briefs 162 times, compared with 10 cites from the plaintiffs’ briefs.

But, how can Judge Zambrano’s decision be fraudulent if it’s largely based on what Chevron submitted to the Ecuadorian Court?

Good question. Here are a few more:

If the Ecuadorian courts are corrupt – as Judge Kaplan and Chevron have argued – why did it take eight years for the court to rule?

Wouldn’t a year or two been enough to fake a “fixed” trial?

And, why would the plaintiffs even bother to ask for a 4,000-page global assessment report much less “ghostwrite” it, as Chevron alleges?

Those are just some of the disconcerting questions folks should wonder aloud about while merits of this case keep getting “lost” in (Chevron induced) legal haze.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

U.S. Judge’s Opinion Relied Largely On “Chevron’s Facts” As He Refused To Accept Ecuadorian Plaintiffs’ Evidence

Last week we wrote about Judge Lewis Kaplan channeling Chevron lobbyist in his unprecedented decision to prevent Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their attorneys from enforcing a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron.

A close review of that decision has found that Judge Kaplan relied almost completely on the oil giant’s arguments. Prior to hearing and ruling on the merits, the American judge strongly signaled he would rule against the Ecuadorians, who sued Chevron in the South American country for massive oil contamination in the Amazon rainforest. Here are some startling numbers:

Kaplan cited Chevron’s briefs, reports and declarations 162 times in his March 7th opinion. He cited the plaintiffs’ legal documents only 10 times.

Chevron may as well have written the opinion. Judge Kaplan adopted Chevron’s arguments as his own. At the same time, he refused to accept evidence from the plaintiffs; then accused us of not responding under oath to Chevron’s charges.

Even before the Ecuadorian court granted the damage award, Chevron had undertaken a legal assault in the U.S. courts to discredit Ecuador’s judiciary system, its government and the plaintiffs’ lawsuit. The oil company accused the plaintiffs of “ghostwriting” an expert report and an Ecuadorian judge of indicating how he would rule prior to the judgment.

What happened in Ecuador was in compliance with Ecuadorian law and rules. What is happening in Judge Kaplan’s courtroom is prejudicial.

Since the beginning of Chevron’s attack on the plaintiffs, Judge Kaplan has expressed disdain for the plaintiffs’ attorneys and Ecuador and its institutions. Even the news media noted he has “made no secret of his distaste” for one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Judge Kaplan also has made dismissive comments from the bench about Ecuador’s government and judiciary, sarcastically comparing Ecuador’s courts to the " High Court of London" (pages 9-13) and making fun of Ecuador's Air Force (pages 9-15).

Incredibly, Judge Kaplan also based on his opinion on an “expert” report submitted by Chevron and written by a political opponent of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. Kaplan included 45 citations to Vladimir Alvarez Grau, a newspaper columnist and member of the opposition party in Ecuador. Depending on Alvarez’s expert views on Ecuador’s government and judiciary is like asking Republican operative Karl Rover to rate the effectiveness of the Obama Administration.

The plaintiffs’ legal team and an attorney for one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers presented to Judge Kaplan two detailed declarations from attorney Sheldon Elsen and Keker & Van Nest partner Elliot Peters and an affidavit by Ecuadorian lawyer Juan Pablo Saenz, describing some of the rampant misconduct Chevron has committed at various points throughout the Ecuadorian trial and responding to the company’s charges. Judge Kaplan included one cite from the Peters declarations and did not cite at all from the Elsen declaration and the Saenz affidavit. Kaplan included nine cites from two of the plaintiffs’ expert reports on Ecuador’s judiciary.

Judge Kaplan did, however, cite 15 times from a declaration by Paul Dans, a lawyer for Chevron lawyer Rodrigo Perez Pallares who is not even participating in the proceeding and whose declaration was filed in a different case. Pallares has been indicted in Ecuador for fraudulent verification of a remediation of oil pits.

In addition to suggesting to Chevron from the bench that the company file racketeering charges against the plaintiffs, Kaplan also expressed his view that Chevron and Texaco are legitimately separate companies and, as a result, may not be held liable, even though Chevron didn’t emphasize the argument in its own briefing. And last week the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in a related lawsuit stated clearly that just because Chevron “dropped the name Texaco” does not mean Chevron is not liable for Texaco’s misconduct.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Critical News Coverage Online & UK Spell Out Chevron’s Misconduct

The U.S. mainstream media has ignored largely the charges of misconduct that the Ecuadorians suing Chevron have leveled against the California-based oil giant in U.S. and Ecuadorian courts. Lately, though, some of the company’s unethical and, in some instances, illegal actions are being told in other venues: both online and in the U.K.

Online blogger Brendan DeMelle from DeSmogBlog unveiled a number of memos written by Texaco officials and consultants show exactly how Ecuadorian government officials and Texaco executives worked hand in hand during the 1990s, especially during the negotiation of the so-called “remediation” agreement between the government and Texaco. (The Ecuadorians have sued Chevron for the oil contamination, which purchased Texaco in 2001.) During the trial in Ecuador, the plaintiffs discovered that oil sites supposedly cleaned by Texaco in exchange for the release of government claims were just as contaminated as those not cleaned. Two Chevron lawyers and seven former government officials have been indicted for falsifying the verification of the agreement. For more information about the remediation, click here.

And, there is this from Guardian environmental editor, John Vidal, who wrote that “oil is the dirtiest industry in the world and Chevron, one the world's largest companies, must be the oiliest. That's saying something when you consider it has rivals including BP, Shell, Exxon and Oxy." Vidal wrote:

“Its lawyers must be some of the busiest in the world. Court records show that in the past 20 years, the company has been made to pay around $2bn in fines and settlements to governments and communities for tax evasion, and environmental violations around the world.

“But its handling of the Ecuadoran case breaks new ground in how a corporation tries to fight its corner and avoid its liabilities.”

Vidal includes a long list of Chevron’s misdeeds in Ecuador and in the U.S., including its denial that Texaco’s operations caused any harm to the environment or to people during its three decades of oil exploration in the Amazon rain-forest.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chevron Tries To Delay Ecuadorians’ Demand For Jury Trial As Oil Giant Continues To Victimize Its Victims

It’s no secret that Chevron is willing to do just about anything to get out of taking responsibility for what they have done to the Ecuadorian Amazon. They have thrown the proverbial kitchen sink at indigenous groups seeking justice for Chevron’s mess. They also have the backing of a U.S. judge who recently issued an outrageous court decision that ignored key evidence of Chevron’s fraud in Ecuador. The decision also enjoined the Ecuadorians from enforcing a recent $9.5 billion judgment in the United States.

Now Chevron wants to delay and possibly prevent the victims of their contamination from having a jury trial on Chevron’s outrageous charges of extortion and racketeering. Apparently, Chevron is now working hard to delay its own counter-suit in New York which has already been panned as “corporate bullying.” Chevron’s claims are pretty far fetched. The oil giant is arguing that attempts to inform the public about its misconduct through negative press releases and lobbying efforts with elected officials is the equivalent of “extortion and racketeering.” The Ecuadorians, along with their attorneys, consultants and supporters who also have been named in the lawsuit, deserve their day in court in front of jury.

Thankfully, we are seeing effective push-back against Chevron’s latest delay tactics. The highly-respected San Francisco attorney John Keker is representing one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers. He stated his concern that Chevron is trying to skirt a jury trial.

At a hearing this week, Keker said that Chevron is trying to avoid facing a jury on key issues. He said the Ecuadorians and their attorneys “want a jury trial on the very serious issues of which he is being accused.”

In a Courthouse News article, Keker also defended the trial in Ecuador which returned the $9.5 billion judgment.

Keker objected to what he called the "wholesale condemnation" of the Ecuador judicial system, which he said was implicit in Chevron's request to separate a decision on the enforceability of the judgment from the so-called “extortion” charges.

"Decrying the Ecuadorean court system in a vacuum ... seems to use to be wrong," Keker said. "It has trials. It has opposed proceedings. It has judges. It has appeals."

`Keker added that Chevron's constant requests to hurry proceedings, and Kaplan's subsequent approvals, have compromised the plaintiffs’ defense. In support of this claim, he pointed to Kaplan's recently signed order to show cause, which the judge granted after meeting with Chevron's lawyer ex parte. […]

“Everything that they say almost is disputed, but they've been having their way because there was nobody around to dispute them," Keker said Tuesday.

Chevron is playing fast and loose with its facts and is making irresponsible accusations about people who are fighting for justice in the Amazon. Like a bully on the playground, it is not used to people standing up and saying no.

We can only hope that Chevron’s lies judicial won’t trump the facts in the case.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

U.S. Judge Channels Chevron Lobbyist With Judicial Activism …

We wanted to follow up a little more on the recent outrageous decision by Judge Lewis Kaplan prohibiting the enforcement of a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron Corp. for its environmental damages in the Ecuadorian Amazon. We blogged about it last week here.

Let’s zero in on the “public interest” reasoning Judge Kaplan offered during a hearing on February 8, 2011, when he issued a temporary restraining order for Chevron, prohibiting the Ecuadorians from enforcing the judgment (emphasis ours):

“Public interest warrants some consideration also, I think. I don't denigrate the interests asserted on behalf of the Ecuadorian plaintiffs, if indeed what they claim happened occurred, if they have a right to relief in Ecuador. They are entitled to it in the fullness of time, by which I mean not indefinite delay but prompt proceedings to examine the bona fides of any judgment.

“On the other hand, we are dealing here with a company of considerable importance to our economy that employs thousands all over the world, that supplies a group of commodities, gasoline, heating oil, other fuels and lubricants on which every one of us depends every single day. I don't think there is anybody in this courtroom who wants to pull his car into a gas station to fill up and finds that there isn't any gas there because these folks have attached it in Singapore or wherever else.”

[See Chevron v. Donzinger, S.D.N.Y, Case No. 1284CHEC, Transcripts of hearing on February 8, 2011, pages 49-50, via Southern District Reporters, P.C.]

Judge Kaplan’s reasoning was very interesting because he essentially channeled an unnamed Chevron lobbyist who was quoted in a Newsweek piece written by Michael Isikoff back in July of 2008 going over Chevron's efforts to deploy lobbyists " to squeeze Ecuador by ending its trade preferences unless the government forced the plaintiffs to dismiss the lawsuit ":

“We can’t let little countries screw around with big companies like this – companies that have made big investments around the world.”

The similarity in Judge’s “reasoning” and the quote from Chevron’s lobbyist is pretty striking. Isn’t it?

We think Judge Kaplan’s TRO-related decisions represent a clear and arguably extreme example of judicial activism. As noted over at, the job of determining whether a particular sector of the economy or individual industry demands extraordinary legal protection belongs to Congress, not the courts. His de facto policy-making on behalf of one specific corporation, Chevron, is therefore much more breathtaking (and inappropriate) when viewed from a “checks and balances” perspective.

Also see this story in Politico about Chevron’s efforts to end Ecuador’s trade preferences. Congresswoman Linda Sanchez called it “extortion.”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chevron’s Human Rights Hitmen

Chevron has created the world’s worst environmental disaster. The irreparable damage to the Amazon is heartbreaking. Even worse, Chevron’s irresponsibility has caused poisoning and death of indigenous and rural Ecuadorians. Chevron dumped over 18 billion gallons of toxic waste, but instead of taking responsibility and doing the right thing the oil giant is pouring money into getting itself off the hook.

The Rainforest Action Network makes an accurate assessment with their new Chevron’s Human Rights Hitmen.The site states:
But rather than take responsibility for cleaning up its oily mess in Ecuador, Chevron has enlisted a team of legal vultures, PR hacks, and other people more greedy than principled to distract attention from the overwhelming evidence of its guilt and deny justice to the victims of Chevron’s contamination. Help us expose Chevron’s Human Rights Hitmen by using the buttons to the right to share with your friends, family, and other networks.

It’s shocking to see the phrase hitmen, but that’s essentially what these people are. This is a major human rights issue and every step of the way these people do more to pile on to the pain and suffering that the Ecuadorians are experiencing.

Mitch Anderson at City Brights hits the nail on the head when discussing Chevron’s actions:
What first struck me, which shouldn't have been a surprise, is how Chevron's spokesperson Kent Robertson is able to consistently, and in a very disciplined way, manipulate the truth. Not an admirable job, but given that Chevron has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the years on high powered law firms and public relations outfits, it's no wonder that the company has developed a sophisticated (but disingenuous) narrative in order to distract the media, financial analysts and shareholders from the central issue: Chevron has been proven guilty of massive environmental crimes in the Amazon, thousands of indigenous peoples and farmers continue to suffer a widespread public health crisis, and Chevron is facing a very real multi-billion liability, with serious financial, operational and reputational consequences to the company.

Just who are these ‘hitmen?’ They include lawyers, dirty tricksters and spies. Diego Borja helped skew evidence. He is even quoted as saying: “Crime does pay.” Sam Anson tried to convince a journalist to spy on plaintiffs in the law suit. Andrea Neuman has a history of defending reckless corporations. R. Hewitt Pate, Chevron’s Vice President and General Counsel, even admits that the company has no intention of ever paying the victims of this disaster.

When you think about the millions upon millions of dollars Chevron is spending on these dirty tricks and hired guns it’s hard not to feel a sense of outrage. Especially considering that all of that money is going to getting out of paying for their disaster.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

“Merit of Case Getting Lost” Says Bloomberg Business Week In Cover Story About The Epic Struggle for Justice in the Ecuadorian Rainforest

If you have not seen it yet, a Paul M. Barrett of Bloomberg Business Week has penned a cover story on Steven Donziger’s epic struggle of justice for Chevron’s environmental genocide in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The story is extensive with lots of twist and turns as Barrett makes a valiant effort to cover “both sides” of the story. Yet when you read through it there are some key grafs that will stand out pointing to the bottom line of this 18-year-old historic battle between Chevron and five indigenous groups.

First, there is this case – that blows apart any assertion that Donziger is in for the money. (Emphasis is ours throughout.):
“Leaving aside his clients' aims, this [the argument that Ecuadorians are going after Chevron “for money” – Ed.], seems like a misdiagnosis of Donziger's motivation. He has been paid a total of about $1 million since 2003, which works out to $125,000 annually for round-the-clock, 365-days-a-year labor. Even with the Feb. 14 judgment, the odds remain iffy that he will collect a fat paycheck by class-action standards. His diary indicates that what drives him has more to do with true devotion and an ornery refusal to quit than it does with the accumulation of lucre. "I think it is a miracle how much we have accomplished with so little," he wrote in May 2006. "But in the end of the day that means nothing if we don't win."

The assertion that Donziger or his clients in Ecuador “are in it for money” was mainstreamed by the recent decision by Judge Lewis Kaplan we earlier highlighted as a “slap in the face” to the Ecuadorians who have been suffering and dying as a result of Chevron’s environmental disaster. Interestingly enough Barrett points out in this piece that Judge Kaplan doesn’t have a grasp on the merits of this case:
“Judge Kaplan, a voluble jurist nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994, ruled immediately from the bench. He granted the restraining order forbidding the plaintiffs from trying to collect any judgment they might win in Ecuador. It was highly unusual for a federal judge to block the effect of a foreign court's action before it occurred. (He has since turned his order into a preliminary injunction, which remains in effect.) Kaplan didn't rule on the merits of the environmental claims; in fact, he stressed that he didn't know much about the underlying equities. He didn't sound sympathetic, however: ‘Among the obvious facts here are that the Ecuadorian plaintiffs are in this for money. They may be in it for other things, but they are in it for money.’"As pointed out by the facts highlighted above Barret didn’t find that line of reasoning persuasive.

Barrett did get to the heart of this story at the very end, which is that various legal smokescreens advanced by Chevron (and its "hitmen" are clouding up the real story – the tragedy that ravaged Ecuador for decades. Barrett notes that the “merit” of this story is getting lost.”
“The cycle of legal hostilities shows no sign of ending. Watching from the sidelines, Professor Arthur Miller, an authority on complex litigation at New York University School of Law, says the drama reminds him of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, the lawsuit that consumes everyone it touches in Charles Dickens's Bleak House. He has a point: As the mud flies, the degradation at the heart of the Chevron case grows increasingly obscure. Everyone agrees that the rain forest is despoiled and poor people who live in huts are sick. Not much has been done to help them. Certainly the litigation has yet to improve their lives in any material way. ‘The lawyers, meanwhile, are running around the periphery of this case,’ says Miller. ‘The merits are getting lost.’"
Read the full piece where you get a sense of, as Barrett writes, “how far a corporation can go in counterattacking a persistent plaintiffs' lawyer whose advocacy leads to a monster verdict, negative press coverage, scathing blog posts, and consumer protests.” The plaintiffs will remain relentless and stay focused on the merits. If there is any justice, the facts will eventually prevail at the end.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A "Slap in the Face" for Ecuadorians Pursuing Justice Against Chevron

Late Monday, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the enforcement of a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron Corp. over environmental damage in Ecuador's Amazon region.

The ruling is outrageous for several reasons, which we will get to below. First, we should note there are serious reservations about Judge Kaplan’s impartiality in this case. Mike G over at the Understory (Rainforest Action Network's official blog) noted this concerning Judge Kaplan's bias in Chevron's favor:

In addition to being biased in Chevron’s favor, Kaplan allegedly encouraged Chevron to file the RICO suit in the first place. At a September hearing, Kaplan said, “Now, do the phrases Hobbs Act, extortion, RICO, have any bearing here?”— obviously signaling that he’d be willing to hear such allegations made in his courtroom. As Donziger’s brief says, ”It is no wonder that Chevron would seek to have the [RICO suit] assigned to the very judge who invited and encouraged its instigation.”
Kaplan wrote to the U.S. State Department requesting input on the implications of Chevron’s RICO suit for international relations with Ecuador, but the State Dept. replied with a big fat “No comment.” Translation: You and Chevron are on your own, Kaplan.

It appears now that Kaplan has delivered for Chevron. As mentioned above, late yesterday evening he issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the enforcement of $9.5 billion dollar judgment against Chevron for being responsible for one of the world’s worst environmental disasters in Ecuadorian Amazon. Karen Hinton’s statement on behalf of Amazon Defense Coalition laid out why the decision was a “slap in the face” for Ecuadorians pursuing justice:

“This decision is a slap in the face to the democratic nation of Ecuador and the thousands of Ecuadorian citizens who have courageously fought for 18 years to hold Chevron accountable for committing the world's worst environmental disaster. The trampling of due process in the court’s refusal to consider key evidence or hold a hearing to determine the facts is an inappropriate exercise of judicial power that will harm the United States’ relationship with Latin America and other parts of the world. It disregards the scholarly and comprehensive 188-page opinion of Ecuadorian Judge Nicolas Zambrano, a well-respected member of Ecuador's judiciary. It also ignores key evidence that Chevron has committed a series of frauds in Ecuador to cover up its unlawful misconduct.
"We want to emphasize that after appeals in Ecuador the Ecuadorian plaintiffs retain their full right to lawfully enforce the judgment of their own country's courts in any of the dozens of nations around the world where Chevron has assets. In the meantime, we will appeal the decision on multiple grounds."

To stay up to date on the developments in this story, please make sure to follow us on Twitter @chevronpit and also keep an eye on

Chevron Exposed For 18 Years of Unethical Conduct In Ecuador

Big news came out of New York this week. Plaintiffs from Ecuador – backed by hundreds of pages of exhibits – submitted a new 42-page sworn affidavit, which outlined in stunning detail Chevron’s 18-year effort to undermine justice.

Ecuadorian attorney Juan Pablo Saenz in his declaration to U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District Court of New York (SDNY) wrote:

“After decades of exploiting the country and wielding its influence like a club as it extracted riches from the Napo Concession, Chevron believed it could use that same power to buy or bully its way to a swift dismissal of this case, or, at the very least, to delay the day of reckoning indefinitely.”

You can view the affidavit by going here.

The declaration was filed in opposition to extortion charges filed by Chevron in New York against the Ecuadorian citizens bringing the lawsuit, and their lawyers and advisors. The charges are part of a flurry of legal activity (which some have derided as "corporate bullying") launched by the oil giant to try to block enforcement of a judgment based on the overwhelming scientific evidence of contamination caused by the company’s actions, according to legal papers filed by the plaintiffs.

Chevron’s allegations are particularly ironic given that the company is seeking relief from the same U.S. court that it asked to send the case to Ecuador in 2002, claiming at the time the South American nation was a more appropriate venue for the trial.

  • In his declaration, Saenz summarized some of Chevron’s gamesmanship and misconduct over a span of almost 18 years since the filing of the action in 1993 -- including attempts to delay and derail the case, tamper with evidence and inappropriately influence Ecuador's government and the United States government to intervene on its side. For example:

  • An internal company fax indicated Chevron officials in the 1990s ghostwrote a letter from the Ecuadorian ambassador to the U.S. Department of State, prevailing upon the agency to intervene and try to have the case dismissed when it was pending in federal court in New York City.

  • Chevron lawyer Ricardo Reis Veiga, one of two Chevron officials criminally indicted in Ecuador for falsifying the results of a purported remediation, admitted in a 2006 deposition that he had met with Ecuador’s attorney general in 2003 in an extrajudicial effort to have the executive branch of the Ecuadorian government order the lawsuit dismissed.

  • A 1972 Chevron memo revealed that a company executive ordered the destruction of all documents relating to oil spills and demanded that company employees no longer keep records of such spills.

  • Between 2003 and 2010, Chevron delayed the trial via subterfuge -- including canceling a critical site inspection by fabricating a security threat, inundating the court with frivolous motions, refusing to pay court experts, and blocking the gathering of scientific evidence.

  • In 2009, Chevron used an Ecuadorian employee and a convicted American drug trafficker to mount an unlawful sting operation against the presiding judge as part of a scheme to entrap him in a bribery scandal. Although the scheme was quickly discredited, the scandal delayed the trial by two years and served as a tool for Chevron to try to intimidate the court.

  • Diego Borja, a member of Chevron's trial team in Ecuador, has been quoted saying he “cooked” evidence for Chevron and that he replaced contaminated samples with clean ones before submitting them to laboratories for testing. Borja also said "crime pays" and that he had evidence that showed Chevron’s guilt that he would disclose unless the company compensated him.

  • In February 2010, Chevron offered $20,000 to a U.S. journalist to spy on the plaintiffs under the false pretenses that she was writing a story.

  • Throughout the trial Chevron has taken out paid advertisements in Ecuadorian media and in various online media outlets accusing judges and court-appointed experts of bias in an effort to intimidate the court.

The affidavit was submitted by the plaintiffs because under U.S. law a party with "unclean hands" does not have the right to seek the type of injunctive relief requested by Chevron to prevent enforcement of the Ecuador judgment. Chevron has removed all assets from Ecuador and has claimed it will not pay the judgment, even though years ago it had promised U.S. courts it would be abide by the Ecuador court's decision as a condition of the case being transferred to Ecuador.

In any event, the Ecuadorian plaintiffs have said the U.S. court has no jurisdiction over them and that after appeals they will retain the option of enforcing the judgment in any of dozens of countries around the world where Chevron has assets.

For more on this read the press release from Amazon Defense Coalition by going here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Chevron Can’t Cover Up Its Amazon Mess By Pointing To Its Own “Audits”

One of the “evidence” Chevron often points to claiming they are not responsible for the environmental damage to the Ecuadorian Amazon is a set of “audits” done by an “independent expert” hired by the big oil company. Chevron’s claims based on these audits are patently false. The audits show the opposite, that Chevron is responsible for the damage at over 45 sites operated by Chevron.

In fact, as shown by the plaintiffs in their Alegato Final (Final argument) in Ecuador, Chevron’s own “audit” shows that the oil company is responsible for the mess created in the Amazon. The first two independent studies from 1992 found extensive evidence of Chevron’s reckless disregard for the environment in Ecuador from 1964 through 1990. In fact, the audits noted multiple violations of Ecuadorian environmental laws. Chevron turned around and hired a third independent expert who had similar finding.

It’s Chevron’s report that is the most damaging, because they are the ones backing it. It does anything but absolve them of the responsibility. The Chevron report found:
  • All but one facility had contaminated water discharge into creeks and streams.

  • Hydrocarbon contamination at all facilities and a majority of drilling sites.

  • Water waste was historically discharged into surface water.

  • “An oil spill prevention and control plan was not identified. The audit teams also did not observe any spill control or containment equipment.”

  • Rather than cleaning chemical or hydrocarbon spills, the oil company covered the spills with sand.

Various environmental experts have said that Chevrons claims are dubious, in part because their process for conducting environmental tests is flawed. Among other problems, Chevron only tested a thin layer of soil, tested soil from outside areas expected to be contaminated and mixed soil samples together from different sites to minimize the amount to contaminants. These actions show that Chevron’s claims about audits and testing are false.

5 independent studies have concluded that Chevron is responsible for environmental damage in Ecuador. While the oil giant claims they are not responsible, all the studies prove them wrong. More on this is available in the plaintiff’s final argument presenting overwhelming scientific evidence of Chevron’s mess in Ecuador, which you can find by going here.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Scapegoating Petroecuador – A Key Chevron Strategy to Evade Justice for Its Ecuadorian Mess

One of Chevron’s key legal strategies to evade justice in Ecuador has been to scapegoat Petroecuador - the state owned oil company. This argument is nothing more than an attempt to sidestep responsibility and whitewash history. Let’s explain this a bit more.

So, Chevron has argued to both U.S. and Ecuadorian courts that Petroecuador is the only party responsible for the devastating environmental damage to rainforest. As plaintiffs submitted in their final argument to the Ecuadorian court, there is no support in law or fact for this.

Petroecuador took over Chevron’s predecessor Texaco’s operations in 1990. The facts are clear that it was Chevron’s predecessor – Texaco – that dumped 16 to 18 billions of gallons of contaminated and highly toxic chemicals directly into the soil, groundwater and surface water in Ecuador and caused an environmental disaster that continues to plague the region.

It is also crucial to note that this case was originally filed in the United States in 1993, shortly after Petroecuador had taken over the Chevron sites for more on the historic trial. At that time, there was no possible way Chevron could have argued that anyone but Chevron was responsible for the environmental catastrophe in Ecuador. However, Chevron succeeded in challenging the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts, a process that took almost an entire decade until the case was re-filed in Ecuador. Chevron has used this slow march to justice as an excuse to scapegoat Petroecuador.

The facts do not support Chevron’s argument that Petroecuador is solely to blame for several reasons:
  • Sites operated by Chevron only and closed before Petroecuador became operator contain illegal levels of toxic materials, in violation of Ecuadorian laws.

  • The vast majority of contamination at well sites occurs during the drilling and development (not once production starts), and the Ecuadorians’ lawsuit incorporates only well sites and stations built and operated by Chevron.

  • Petroecuador inherited Chevron’s sub-standard and faulty infrastructure designed with the intention of releasing toxins into the environment. Chevron’s subsequent abandonment of its facilities does not absolve it of liability.

  • Petroecuador made dramatic improvements in Chevron’s prior environmental practices in virtually every respect, including building re-injection wells to pump the wastewater back into the ground, instead of dumping it directly in the rainforest as Texaco did. Petroecuador also stopped using unlined pits for permanent storage of the toxic sludge and developed an oil spill reporting and management system, something Chevron never did.

For more on the plaintiff’s final argument presenting overwhelming scientific evidence of Chevron’s mess in Ecuador go here.

It is baseless and cynical for Chevron to claim that it bears no responsibility for one of the largest environmental disasters in history. Its attempts to evade justice by scapegoating Petroecuador is nothing more than part of a craven attempt to sidestep responsibility and whitewash history.

No one else is to blame for Chevron’s environmental transgressions.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

U.S. Investigations Into Wastewater Raise Similar Concerns As In Ecuador

U.S. investigations into hydrofracking — a drilling method to tap natural gas resources — revealed the same findings of an Ecuadorian judge who recently awarded $8.6 billion in damages to a group of indigenous tribes suing Chevron for oil contamination in the Amazon rainforest. The judge found that wastewater generated by Chevron’s oil exploration had contaminated drinking water and soil — the same concern raised by hydrofracking investigations in Pennsylvania, New York, Louisiana and Texas. New York Times’ reporter Ian Urbina wrote this disturbing article about the safety impacts on drinking water. Not surprisingly, industry officials denied harm, just as Chevron has done in Ecuador.

Urbina wrote:
“With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground.... More than 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater was produced by Pennsylvania wells over the past three years, far more than has been previously disclosed. Most of this water — enough to cover Manhattan in three inches — was sent to treatment plants not equipped to remove many of the toxic materials in drilling waste.”

In Ecuador, Chevron never treated the wastewater at all. The oil giant produced 16 to 18 billion gallons of untreated wastewater and intentionally dumped it into the rainforest during the company’s operations in Ecuador from 1964 to 1992. Tests taken in 1994 found dangerous levels of benzene in Chevron’s wastewater, but no tests on radioactive elements have been conducted. View this video of a former oil operations assistant for Texaco (purchased by Chevron in 2001) who talks about how the company intentionally dumped untreated wastewater directly into the rainforest.

Urbina wrote:
The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.... The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.

Chevron has argued that harmful chemicals in the wastewater have been diluted by the rainforest’s waterways.

Urbina wrote:
A confidential industry study from 1990, conducted for the American Petroleum Institute, concluded that “using conservative assumptions,” radium in drilling wastewater dumped off the Louisiana coast posed “potentially significant risks” of cancer for people who eat fish from those waters regularly.... In Texas, which now has about 93,000 natural-gas wells, up from around 58,000 a dozen years ago, a hospital system in six counties with some of the heaviest drilling said in 2010 that it found a 25 percent asthma rate for young children, more than three times the state rate of about 7 percent.

Health studies have shown higher rates of cancer, respiratory illnesses, spontaneous abortions and other diseases in the former Chevron concession area, in comparison to other areas of Ecuador. Not surprisingly, Chevron denies any negative health impacts.