Monday, August 5, 2013

Chevron Knows No Bounds In Ecuador Case, New York Times Article Shows

In a blog on The Huffington Post, the former U.S. spokesperson for the Ecuadorians who won a $19 billion judgment against Chevron for oil contamination argues a recent  New York Times article clearly shows that Chevron knows no bounds in its legal attacks to avoid being held accountable for the destruction it caused in the Ecuadorian rainforest.

Read the blog, written by Karen Hinton, here.

The New York Times article, written by energy reporter Cliff Krauss, is a balanced look at the 20-year-old lawsuit, but neglects to point out some key facts about the case:

1 -- Most importantly, it incorrectly states that the Ecuadorians filed their lawsuit against Texaco, now owned by Chevron, after Texaco entered into a remediation agreement with the Government of Ecuador. They filed their lawsuit in 1993 in a U.S. court. Not long after, Texaco appealed, lobbied, and probably bribed Ecuador's government to get the lawsuit dismissed. It would not and that led to the 1995 remediation agreement, which the U.S. court ignored. Equally important is the fact that the agreement carved out the Ecuadorians' lawsuit, stating that the third-party complaints were not covered by the agreement.

2 -- Chevron has never denied that it has spied and possibly continues to spy on one of the Ecuadorians' attorneys, Steven Donziger, a human rights lawyer whose reputation Chevron is clearly trying to destroy, if not his entire ability to make a living to support his family.

3 -- Chevron charges that the Ecuadorians' lawyers "ghostwrote" an Ecuador court report and two judgments, but have any reporters taken a close look at U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan's recent rulings on Chevron's fraud countersuit? Kaplan's rulings are only slight re-writes of legal briefs filed by Chevron lawyers. U.S. judges often take arguments written in briefs, submitted by one side or the other, and use them in their briefs. In Ecuador, it's no different.

4 -- Krauss quotes Chevron saying that Donziger's "confidents" have turned against him, but everyone involved in the case knows that the individuals in question have been threatened and pressured by Chevron. For more than four years, Chevron pressured clients of Stratus Consulting, the environmental engineering firm for the Ecuadorians, to dump the firm. On the verge of bankruptcy resulting from the Chevron litigation against it, Stratus succumbed to the pressure with an affidavit disavowing the process for writing one of the court reports on contamination at the Chevron oil sites. Chevron dropped its lawsuit against Stratus; however, Stratus continues to stand by its findings of contamination. See here and here.

5 -- Another of Stratus' environmentalists is quoted from a video, saying that the contamination had not spread beyond the oil sites. Had Chevron allowed the reporter to see the entire video, he would have seen that she was concerned about the number of tests taken so far and was arguing for more testing to determine the impact of the contamination beyond the pits. Donziger was arguing that the Ecuadorians only had so much money to spend on tests; that contamination was evident at the oil sites, and that was enough to prove Chevron's guilt. Regardless, there is contamination at the well sites; people live near them; they should be cleaned.

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