Group Accuses Chevron Of Unethical Tactics In $10 Billion Rainforest Trial
QUITO, Ecuador - According to a rain forest protection organization in Equador, global oil giant Chevron is fabricating evidence and engaging in a "campaign of intimidation" in Ecuador. The group says the oil company is doing this to derail a class action rain forest pollution trial as it nears completion, said Pablo Fajardo, the Ecuadorian lawyer, a spokesman for the Coalition to Defend the Amazon, the non-profit group bringing the case.
Plaintiffs maintain a final judgment in the case - considered one of the largest environmental litigations in history -- could surpass $10 billion. Three indigenous groups report they are near extinction in areas of the rainforest where Chevron operated.
The evidentiary portion of the trial is expected to end in months, with a decision in 2008.
"As judgment day nears, Chevron has resorted to these unethical tactics because it knows the weight of the evidence is stacked against it," said Pablo Fajardo, the Ecuadorian lawyer for the 30,000 plaintiffs and a spokesman for the Coalition.
Chevron is accused of intentionally dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon rainforest during the 28 years (1964 to 1992) it operated an oil concession in Ecuador, or 30 times more pure crude that was spilled in Exxon Valdez disaster.
Chevron's legal problems over Ecuador, according to Fajardo, include:
-- Soil and water sampling at Chevron's former production sites in
Ecuador show levels of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPHs) and other
toxic chemicals at thousands of times higher than maximum amounts
tolerated in the U.S. - yet Chevron misleads its shareholders,
claiming the results pose no risk to human health. For an analysis of
Chevron's fraudulent science, see materials at www.texacotoxico.com or
-- Chevron recently was dealt a setback by U.S. federal judge Leonard
Sand, who ruled the company had no right to force Ecuador's government
into arbitration to determine who should pay for the damages.
-- In Ecuador, Judge German Yanez recently denied Chevron motions to
delay the trial. Instead, Yanez imposed a strict 120-day deadline for
the damages assessment to be completed.
-- The trial judge also ordered police tape to be put around contaminated
well sites to prevent Chevron lawyers and technical personnel from
interfering with the scientific work of the court-appointed expert. A
roving band of roughly 25 Chevron lawyers and technical personnel had
been "stalking" the expert, said Fajardo.
-- Chevron is fabricating evidence in two ways. First, its scientists
lift soil samples away from a contaminated production site (such as
the top of a nearby hill) and then claim they came from the site
itself. Second, Chevron refuses to test for certain toxins and then
uses their purported "absence" to claim there is no danger.
"Chevron's trial strategy is to use junk science for public relations purposes," said Steven Donziger, an America legal advisor to the plaintiffs. "It is the same type of fake science that denies global warming. Eventually, that approach catches up with you."