Friday, February 24, 2012

Chevron’s Latest Deal: Backs Scratched, $Millions Made & Ecuadorians’ Rights Trashed

Read this recent press release by the Amazon Defense Coalition about Chevron’s kangaroo “judge” – Horacio Grigera Noan – who essentially is in the legal business with Chevron’s lawyer, R. Doak Bishop of the powerhouse law firm King & Spalding.

Horacio Grigera Noan

R. Doak Bishop

The press release explains in detail, but this is how it works:

As we’ve reported before, Chevron has turned to this clubby, chummy group of private arbitration lawyers who have instructed the Government of Ecuador to disregard its Constitution by telling the judiciary to block enforcement of the $18 billion judgment the Ecuadorian indigenous groups recently won against Chevron.

The Ecuador court has said thanks for your input, but we’re gonna abide by our Constitution, as well as international law. See here.

Meanwhile, the Ecuadorians are justifiably upset with this development, but don't really think it matters at the end of the day. They have a legitimate judgment which they intend to enforce.

Yet, this clubby, chummy arbitration panel continues to meet and discuss why they think they have the authority to tell Ecuador courts what to do – at a price tag of at least $800 an hour per kangaroo and maybe more.

They have been known to make anywhere from $1 to $5 million depending how long they can drag out the cases. Chevron pays half. Guess who pays the rest: the Ecuadorian taxpayers.

Now, here’s where it gets even more interesting.

Chevron picks one of the kangaroos, right? Guess who is Chevron’s pick – Grigera Noan, who has partnered up with arbitration kingpin Bishop on at least five occasions. Of the five, three involved Ecuador, and Noan ruled against Ecuador every time.

There could be even more cases, but the arbitration process is very secretive; everything is done behind closed doors. So, no one really knows how many cases Bishop and Noan have banked.

But, as the press release points out, this back scratching is prohibited under arbitration rules, to the degree there are any.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Check This Out!

Some must read blogs and articles (short and sweet):

Chevron: You Break it! You Fix it!

Chevron: How Low Can You Go?

AmericaBlog: Oil companies delay with hopes problems go away.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Ecuador Appellate Court Says Ecuadorians’ Human Rights Take Precedent

Chevron’s secret arbitration panel has demanded that Ecuador do the oil giant’s bidding and stop enforcement of the $18 billion judgment against the company. Chevron has tried to convince journalists covering the case that the panel has the authority to tell another country’s court system what to do.

Prestigious international jurists have said nonsense. Human rights and trade groups in the U.S. have said nonsense.

Now the Ecuador court system has weighed in, too.

“A simple arbitration award, although it may bind Ecuador, cannot obligate Ecuador’s judges to violate the human rights of our citizens. That would not only run counter to the rights guaranteed by our Constitution, but would also violate the most important international obligations assumed by Ecuador in matters of human rights.”

“…this Division finds that no court in Ecuador has power or legal foundation that exceeds Article 11 of the Cassation Act on which to support the possibility of suspending the processing, hearing, or enforcement of any legal proceeding without incurring severe, even criminal, liability with respect to the parties.”

Exactly, and enough said.

Now watch a video that tells the true story about Chevron in Ecuador at

Friday, February 17, 2012

Shocking New Video Exposes Chevron's Crimes & Fraud In Ecuador

Take 15 minutes of your day and watch this shocking new video that exposes Chevron's crimes and fraud in Ecuador.

Chevron's lawyers, lobbyists, and public relations firms have tried everything to distract attention away from the suffering of the Ecuadorians who have been forced to live with the contamination Chevron left in the rainforest after exploring for oil from 1964 to 1990. Chevron has even accused the Ecuadorians of fraud in an attempt to turn its victims into criminals.

This video reminds us what the lawsuit is all about -- the families who have lost loved ones to cancer and other oil-related illnesses all because Chevron used the most inexpensive methods to extract oil to maximize its profits.

The True Story of Chevron's Ecuador Disaster from Amazon Watch on Vimeo.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chevron Says The Darndest Things

Actually They Are Pretty Shocking

During almost two decades of litigation against Chevron for the massive contamination of the Ecuador rainforest, the oil giant's spokespeople have said some of the darndest things.

When heard or read for the first time, they actually are pretty shocking, leading one to believe the company's executives are completely tone deaf.

They have so bought into their culture of corruption, they don't even recognize how outrageous or how shameful their words are.

Here are just a few for your reading astonishment.

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

-- An unnamed Chevron lobbyist about the company's efforts to convince Congress and the U.S. Trade Representative to deny Ecuador U.S. trade preferences in retaliation for the environmental lawsuit, Newsweek


-- Chevron spokesperson Donald Campbell to Global Post (We've got our skates on!)


“In the thousands of soil and water samples that we have taken in the Amazon, there has been no detection of any type of toxin that is not naturally occurring in the environment, and that is dangerous to human health or the environment."

"Oil is naturally occurring in the environment. It just depends where it is. I have makeup on, and there's naturally occurring oil on my face. Doesn't mean that I'm going to get sick from it."

-- Chevron lawyer Silvia Garrigo to 60 Minutes that reported the Ecuador court received over 60,000 contaminated soil and water samples, of which most Chevron itself submitted.


"We've done inspections. We've done a deep scientific analysis, and that analysis has shown no harmful impacts from the operations. There just aren't any."

-- A Chevron spokesperson to the New York Times.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Prestigious Legal Experts Slam Chevron's Secretive Panel of Private Attorneys Who Seek to Kill $18 Billion Judgment

Prestigious international legal experts are demanding that the United Nations step in and end efforts by a secretive arbitration panel of private attorneys, with close ties to Chevron, to block enforcement of the $18 billion judgment against the oil giant.

Read this recent post on The Chevron Pit and by the Rainforest Action Network for details.

Calling the panel's actions a "travesty" and "misuse" of power, the letters reflect growing international support for the Ecuadorians who fought the company for 18 years to obtain the judgment, which will ensure a cleanup of the toxic brew Chevron left in the soil and water in the rainforest and will provide health care and clean drinking water for the residents. Chevron, who has refused to pay the judgment, sold all its assets in Ecuador, requiring the Ecuadorians to enforce the judgment in other countries where Chevron has assets. 

While the Ecuadorians do not believe that a legitimate court will recognize the panel's recent rulings, they are outraged that Chevron is being allowed to try and stop enforcement of the judgment in what they refer to as a "kangaroo court."

Below are excerpts from the letters and links to them. 

Letter from the Andean Commission of Jurists to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon  

"These communities recently obtained a legitimate and valid judgment in the court system of Ecuador that was chosen by Chevron as the venue for the litigation. Despite its previous stipulations to United States federal courts that it would respect any judgment from Ecuador, Chevron continues to use questionable litigation tactics to deny those injured any forum to seek justice and compensation for their injuries. The latest such tactic is the misuse by Chevron of ... an arbitration... to force Ecuador's government to violate international law and quash the human rights of its own citizens by essentially nullifying the result of their case after almost two decades of litigation." 

The Andean Commission, which has consulting status with the United Nations, is one of the leading human rights organizations in South America. Its board members include Diego Garcia-Sayan, the former Chief Justice of the Inter-American Human Rights Court; renowned investor-state arbitrator Pedro Nikken; and other distinguished jurists from Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

Letter from five prestigious international jurists to Renaud Sorieul, the Secretary of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law 

"Allowing (arbitration) panels to determine recognition and enforcement issues in private litigation transforms them into venues of final appeal in a way that was never intended and offends the inherent trustworthiness of legal systems around the world to determine matters for themselves....(Treaty) panel awards ordering States to interfere in private judicial proceedings between different parties is a direct violation of well settled principles of sovereignty and, in this particular case, human rights under international law."

Letter from distinguished international law jurist Jose Daniel Amado to U.N. Secretary General Ki-moon

"Chevron has constructed what appears to be a calculated plan to manipulate a commercial investment dispute system to evade the outcome of a private litigation....(the panel) makes a travesty of the bilateral commercial treaty system...(and its rulings represent an) "illegal expansion of arbitral powers with wide-ranging implications for well-settled principles of international law, including fundamental human rights and state sovereignty."

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

These Three Men Think They Have Power To Kill The Ecuadorians' Judgment Against Chevron

Here's Why They Can't: It's Against The Law

These three men
Horacio Grigeria Naon

Vaughan Lowe

V.V. Veeder

think they can demand that the Government of Ecuador instruct its judiciary system to protect the interests of this man, the CEO and Chairman of the Chevron Corporation,

Chevron CEO John Watson

by undoing an $18 billion judgment in Ecuador against his company for massive contamination of the rainforest.

They are private arbitration lawyers who belong to a secret club, called the Permanent Court of Arbitration, otherwise known as a "Kangaroo Court." See this blog by the Rainforest Action Network.

They pretend to be part of The Hague, but they aren't. They simply have office space there, and they mostly meet in rented hotel conference rooms in cities across the globe. The lawyers sometimes act as "judges" on the panel, but other times they represent their corporate clients, making millions of dollars on each case. It's a very chummy club with everybody rubbing everybody's back -- except the impoverished people who are often harmed by their actions.

Of late, they and other lawyers like them have been abusing provisions found in bilateral investment treaties between countries to protect many multinational corporations -- Chevron being the most recent. See this link at Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch web site for other examples.

Here's how it works: Countries sign investment treaties with provisions designed primarily -- or so the countries thought -- to encourage economic growth and create jobs for their citizens. Sometimes corporations doing business in a foreign country don't like the way they are being treated, so they have the ability under many of the treaties to file an arbitration claim against the foreign government for relief. Mostly the claims are about commercial disputes that go before these private arbitration lawyers tasked with resolving the problem.

In the Chevron case, though, it's about much, much more.

The oil giant has convinced the panel to take an unprecedented step: demand Ecuador violate its Constitution by interfering in its judiciary system. The arbitration lawyers, meeting this weekend in closed-door sessions in Washington, DC, have ordered Ecuador to block enforcement of the Ecuadorians' judgment -- a violation of not only Ecuador's Constitution but international law and long-standing human rights treaties. Chevron and Watson aren't stopping there, though. They want Ecuador to pay the judgment or even have the case dismissed altogether.

Imagine the White House telling the U.S. Supreme Court -- only a few blocks from where the arbitration lawyers are huddled this weekend -- to dismiss a recent ruling. That is why Chevron wants to happen in Ecuador.

The whole thing is a charade and mocks the justice that the Ecuadorians seek after having their lives, land, and water ruined with toxic poison during three decades of oil drilling and exploration by Chevron.

Meanwhile, the Ecuadorians are not deterred. They are moving forward with their $18 billion judgment and are preparing to enforce soon in countries where Chevron has assets. Ecuador's government has ignored the panel's demand and is standing firmly behind the findings of its court system.

The Ecuadorians do not believe the findings of this kangaroo court will impact their ability to enforce in courtrooms, not in the control of a chummy, secret pack of expensive lawyers.

And, they have international experts from across the globe backing them up. See here and here . They have written the United Nations to protest that the arbitration's findings "offends ... legal systems" everywhere.

“Allowing (arbitration) panels to determine recognition and enforcement issues in private litigation transforms them into venues of final appeal in a way that was never intended and offends the inherent trustworthiness of legal systems around the world to determine matters for themselves,” they wrote.

Read this Courthouse News story for more details.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Secret Arbitration "Club" Meets This Weekend In DC On Ecuador Case

After having lost on the merits in Ecuador and U.S. courts, Chevron has turned to a secret panel of private lawyers, nicknamed "The Club," to help the company avoid paying a dime of the $18 billion judgment against it for the deliberate poisoning of the rainforest.

Chevron is trying to use a controversial private enforcement process under the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty that, in Chevron's mind, empowers the panel to direct a sovereign nation to interfere in its judiciary system.

In fact, the BIT, as it is known, seeks to protect the respective national court systems from interference.

The arbitration panel hearing Chevron's claim against Ecuador has no authority to suspend enforcement of or alter a judgment rendered by a sovereign country’s court system, as Chevron demands.

Yet, this closed-door panel will conduct hearings this Saturday and Sunday (February 11-12) in a rented room in Washington, DC, as if it did.

In many cases, critics say, these investor-state arbitrations are highly conflicted and are nothing more than opportunities for the secret "Club" members to make millions in fees.

Just this past January at the National Press Club, DC-based arbitration lawyer Gary Horlick has this to say before a Global Business Dialogue audience -- the club's trade association: "It’s (investor-state arbitrations) great for lawyers, believe me. The average legal fee ... is $3 million, so it is big business."

Big business indeed.

It gets even worse: club members rotate as lawyers representing clients and as panelists who issue rulings about claims. In one claim, a lawyer appears with his client. In another claim, he appears as a panelist before a lawyer who may have ruled his way on a previous panel.

You cannot attend nor can the Ecuadorians, who are locked out of hearings about their long and hard-fought battle against one of the most powerful and influential oil companies in the world. They are completely dependent upon the Ecuador government's lawyers to defend them.

They will have their voice heard, though, outside the hearings, where the Ecuadorians and their environmental supporters here in the U.S. will speak out against the proceedings on Friday, the day before the hearings, and on Saturday.

They will argue that no laws or treaties empowers a private tribunal to provide relief that would demand a sovereign nation interfere in its judiciary system, violating its Constitution as well as international and human rights laws.

Imagine what would happen if the White House directed the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse one of its decisions because an international tribunal declared it illegitimate. There’s no word to describe such an event because it would never happen in this country.

Public Citizen, Amazon Watch and the Rainforest Action Network are standing up to Chevron's kangaroo court by organizing the rally and conducting a Teach-In at American University about Chevron's abuse of the arbitration process.

We encourage all Chevron Pit readers in Washington, DC to attend:

Teach-In, February 9th, Thursday, 7-9 pm, American University: School of International Service Atrium, AW Main Campus, 4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington D.C., (202) 885-3264

Humberto Piaguage, Spokesperson for the Secoya Indigenous Organization of Ecuador and a representative of the Ecuadorians suing Chevron

Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch Division

Aaron Page, Forum Nobis, PLLC, lawyer for Ecuadorians in U.S.

Rob Collier, Corporate Campaigns Director, Amazon Watch

Rally, February 10th, Friday, Noon, Organization of American States, Constitution Avenue & 17th St., NW, Washington D.C., (202) 458-3000

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dead fish, health problems emerge as Chevron rig off Nigeria continues to burn after accident

The AP ran this horrific story yesterday about the devastating impact a Chevron natural gas rig fire is having on Nigerians. This is yet another example of Chevron's haphazard approach to oil exploration: Ecuador, Brazil and now Nigeria.  The entire story is below.  

By Associated Press, Updated: Monday, February 6, 6:27 AM

LAGOS, Nigeria — The burning inferno of what used to be a Chevron Corp. natural gas rig still stains the night’s sky orange more than two weeks after the rig caught fire, and no one can say when it will end as swarms of dead fish surface.

The environmental damage is hitting a region whose poor still rely on the delta’s muddy waters for survival. A nearby clinic remains overrun with patients who are showing up with skin irritations and gastrointestinal problems.

“The community here has no other source of water apart from the river water, which on its own isn’t even safe enough to drink, but the pollution has made the water even worse,” said Dr. Oladipo Folorunso, the only doctor in the town of Ikebiri.

Folorunso attributes the illnesses to the burning rig, as rising temperatures in water can cause bacteria to thrive. A satellite image showed that the fire at a point was at least 1,340 degrees Fahrenheit (nearly 730 degrees Celsius), “hot enough to soften steel,” an independent watchdog group called SkyTruth said.

The fire began Jan. 16 from a shallow-water gas well for Chevron’s Nigerian subsidiary near its North Apoi oil platform. The accident killed two foreign workers and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage.

Chevron says it continues to investigate what started the fire but is not offering any estimate on how long it will burn.

Nigeria’s government believes a “gas kick” — a major buildup of gas pressure from drilling — was responsible, said Levi Ajuonoma, a spokesman for the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp.

In Koluama 1, a community less than six miles (10 kilometers) from the fire, the traditional ruler says Chevron and the federal government are not doing enough to address the problem.

“We need the federal government to come in,” Jeremiah T. C. Leghemo said. “These relief materials are provided by Chevron because the state government prevailed on Chevron to provide them, but the people are suffering.”

Chevron said last week that it was moving “food and supplies to the communities in the area to recognize the help and support that they have given us.”

A report by local watchdog Environmental Rights Action said the area — home to tens of thousands of people — received 50 bags of rice, 50 bags of cassava flour, one cow, vegetable oil, palm and groundnut oil, cartons of tomatoes and canned drinks.

The federal government is still putting together help for the community, said Yushau Shuaib, spokesman for Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency. He could not immediately say what the materials would include.

It also remains unclear when the fire will be put out. Chevron, based in San Ramon, California, has said that it would take 30 days to drill to total depth of 9,000 feet (2,740 meters) to create a relief well that would help put out the fire.

The company on Thursday said it had finished its drilling plans. When pressed to say how long it would take to extinguish the fire, the company declined to comment.

“We cannot predict how long the process will take, but what we can tell you is we will do so as quickly as possible while continuing to maintain safe operations,” the company said in a statement.

Critics say the situation around the burning rig is symptomatic of how the government that enjoys billions from oil sales fails to protect its people.

Foreign firms have pumped oil for more than 50 years out of the delta, a region of swamps, mangroves and creeks roughly the same size as South Carolina. Many in the delta remain desperately poor, living in polluted waters without access to proper medical care, education or work.

Nigerian regulators often fall back on international standards set by engineering and trade groups as a yardstick for safety measures, but the country’s institutionalized graft and mismanagement means oil companies largely answer only to themselves in safety matters.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Either You Did Or You Didn't

Fess Up Chevron

It's a pretty simple question, Chevron. Did you change this document to look like this document so you could hide from the court huge amounts of life-threatening toxins at your old well sites in Ecuador? 

If you did, then it proves what the Ecuadorians have been saying since testing at the sites began in 2004 and 2005 during the long-running Ecuador trial: Chevron manipulated soil and water samples. In other words, the company "cooked" evidence.

Readers of The Chevron Pit might ask, so what? The Ecuadorians won. They defeated Chevron in both U.S. and Ecuador courts, winning an $18 billion judgment to cleanup damages resulting from the company's deliberate poisoning of the rainforest's soil and water.

It matters because Chevron is trying to get an Ecuador-funded taxpayer bailout from an international arbitration tribunal, run by private lawyers. See here for details. In Chevron's twisted view of the world, the Government of Ecuador should pay the $18 billion judgment. 

But the government, of course, is the people. Now that it’s lost in legitimate courts both in the U.S. and in Ecuador, Chevron turns to a body with no authority to have the Ecuadorians pay to fix a horrific mess of gigantic proportions of its own creation.

Only an oil company would think it could get away with this.

The Government of Ecuador has this smoking gun document and will present it to the tribunal, which explains why Chevron is parsing its statements carefully. 

In response, Chevron's lawyers wrote a long letter to the Ecuadorians' lawyers, making all kinds of nasty threats, but they never denied Chevron doctored the document to induce two professors of note to endorse fake testing methods.

In an open joint letter, the two professors, who are on the Chevron dole, also failed to put to rest the charges that Chevron used the altered document to dupe them into endorsing the company’s sampling protocol. 

They are Dr. Pedro J. Alvarez currently the chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University, and Dr. Douglas Mackay, an adjunct professor at the University of California, Davis.

The smoking gun document shows that Chevron's legal team concocted a plan to guarantee the company would find only "clean" soil samples from dozens of contaminated well sites inspected by the court while "dirty" samples would be sent to a secret laboratory where they would not be disclosed.

But don't take our word for it. Check out a comparison of a "before" and "after" document. You decide. 

Meanwhile, Chevron, a simple yes or no answer will suffice.

Speaking of “cooked” evidence, read this old Chevron Pit to see how Chevron’s fraud in Ecuador is coming into focus. 

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