Showing posts with label Miami Herald. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Miami Herald. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Miami Herald Catches Chevron In Lie About Ecuador Well Site

Miami Herald Catches Chevron In Lie About Ecuador Well Site
Reporter Finds Oil Sludge In “Remediated” Pit

Washington, DC – The Miami Herald has caught Chevron in a lie about its so-called “remediation” in Ecuador that the oil giant uses as its primary defense against an $18 billion judgment in a massive oil-contamination case brought by indigenous groups.

In a story published in today's newspaper, journalist Jim Wyss said he witnessed “thick oil slicks” only a few feet into the ground of a dirt-covered storage pit Chevron told him the day before had been remediated of all oil.

After watching a man dig into the ground at the Sacha 53 well site, Wyss wrote, “Within a few inches the dirt gives off the pungent odor of petroleum. Within a few feet the dirt glistens with oil residue. When a few handfuls of the soil are dropped into a bucket of water, a thick oil-slick coats the surface.”

Chevron has continually claimed to courts and the press that it conducted a remediation of the site.

This report is significant because Chevron has testified in front of U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District Court of New York that it cleaned the site, along with many others. In fact, evidence has shown that Chevron simply covered the pits with dirt and never removed the toxins. Chevron has claimed to Kaplan that it is the victim of a racketeering scheme cooked up by the plaintiffs -- 30,000 rainforest residents – and their American and Ecuadorian lawyers.

The plaintiffs argue Chevron’s charges are only last-minute, desperate attempts to cover up its unlawful racketeering scheme in Ecuador, which led to the deliberate discharge of billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon, killing off indigenous groups and causing an epidemic of cancer.

On a series of rulings over the last several months, Kaplan has cited the remediation agreement between Chevron and the Ecuadorian government as evidence that Chevron is not responsible for the contamination.

“This American journalist’s eyewitness account, along with massive evidence in the trial, puts the lie to Chevron’s claims to the U.S. court,” said Karen Hinton, spokesperson for the Ecuadorians.

In 2002, Chevron had the case – originally filed in the same New York federal court -- moved to Ecuador after submitting 14 separate affidavits claiming the court system was fair and transparent.

After the trial in Ecuador began in 2003, testing at the unlined oil pits left by the company in the jungle began to show illegal levels of life-threatening toxins. By 2007, when overwhelming evidence began to pour onto the court docket, Chevron was taking out advertising in the Ecuadorian newspapers accusing judges, the government and the plaintiffs of conspiring against the company.

In 2009, an Ecuadorian prosecutor indicated two Chevron lawyers and a dozen former Ecuadorian government officials for falsifying the remediation at Sacha-53 and other sites.

Judge Kaplan has, by and large, adopted Chevron’s view on the remediation agreement, writing in one opinion, “the release by Ecuador seems to have been intended to put an end to any claims or litigation concerning Texaco’s alleged pollution.”

The Miami Herald’s Wyss has a different account. He begins his story this way:

“Donald Moncayo (a plaintiffs’ representative) walks to the edge of a flat grassy field that once held two large pits that brimmed with a stew of water and crude from an oil-drilling operation. He lifts a heavy auger above his head and prepares to plunge it into the ground. “They (Chevron) always show you the shirt the coat and the tie,” he said of the area, called Sacha 53, which is now pastureland and spindly trees. “They never show you the tumor underneath the shirt.”

After describing the oil he saw and smelled only a few feet into the soil, he quotes Moncayo again:

“This is their remediation effort,” Moncayo says. “They’re no better than animals.’’

Chevron’s PR representative in Ecuador, James Craig, attempted to explain the oil away by asserting it may have “occurred naturally” or the Ecuadorians may have “spiked” the ground with oil. He even claimed that if Chevron didn’t completely clean the pit, the oil wouldn’t hurt anyone anyway.

“Knowing James Craig, he probably said all of this with a straight face,” said Hinton. “Chevron’s PR people make a lot of money to not only spin the facts, but to lie about them.”

Karen Hinton
Hinton Communications
1215 19th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
703-798-3109, cellular
480-275-3554, fax by email