AMAZON DEFENSE COALITION
Contact: Karen Hinton at 703-798-3109 or Karen@hintoncommunications.com
Chevron Faces Tens of Billions in Clean-up Costs; Potential Death Toll Put at 10,000 in Ecuador Rainforest
Top American Technical Experts Weigh In On High-Profile Damages Case
Lago Agrio, Ecuador (September 17) – A group of highly respected American technical and medical experts, using conservative assumptions, have concluded that it could cost Chevron up to tens of billions of dollars to clean up oil waste discharged into Ecuador’s rainforest and compensate local communities for the damage it caused over the 26 years it operated a large oil concession, according to valuation assessments submitted Thursday to the Ecuador trial court.
Relying on official Ecuador census and mortality data, as well as relevant studies, the analysis finds that what is believed to be the world’s largest oil-related catastrophe likely will cause nearly 10,000 Ecuadorians to be at significant risk of dying from cancer by the year 2080 even if Chevron cleans up in the next ten years. The numbers could rise substantially if no remediation takes place.
The assessments analyzed numerous categories of damages, including soil and groundwater contamination, drinking water, excess cancer deaths, natural resources damage, and health costs. While the high end of the damages range of $113 billion is substantially greater than the $27.3 billion damages number set forth in a report in 2008 by court-appointed expert Richard Cabrera, some categories of damages were found to be lower than those estimated in that report.
For example, the combined cost of clean-up for soil and groundwater contamination in the new analysis – which relied mostly on Chevron’s own internal environmental audits -- at the high end of the range was roughly $1.8 billion, compared to more than the $5 billion estimate in the earlier Cabrera report. The analysis found the existence of other categories of contamination, such as oil sediment in rivers, but they could not be accurately quantified. The differences in the soil and groundwater remediation numbers is largely a function of the fact the new analyses used far more conservative assumptions than the Cabrera report. For example, the Cabrera report concluded soil should be cleaned to a depth of five meters, while the recent analysis assumed only four meters.
A large portion of the damages in the new analyses can be attributed to Chevron’s “unjust enrichment” – money saved by using sub-standard drilling practices – and compensation for potential excess cancer deaths that have a significant chance of occurring in coming decades due to exposure to cancer-causing crude oil. Most of the damages in the Cabrera report were from the same two categories.
“The new valuation analyses are different, in many ways, than the damage assessment report from 2008 but both present reasonable and sound assessments based on the evidence,” said Pablo Fajardo, the lead lawyer for the Amazonian communities suing the oil giant.
“The Ecuador court has more than enough evidence and expert analyses to determine the cost of remediating the extensive oil pollution that has devastated thousands in the region for decades,” Fajardo added. “There are more than 100 different expert reports in evidence, dozens of them produced by Chevron, which overwhelmingly demonstrate extensive contamination at all of Chevron’s former oil production facilities.”
The new damages analyses came in a supplemental report submitted by lawyers for the dozens of Amazon communities suing Chevron for what is believed to be the world’s worst oil-related disaster – larger than the size of the BP Gulf spill. Unlike the BP Gulf spill, the Ecuador disaster has been contaminating the rainforest ecosystem for almost 50 years.
Ecuadorian law provides that the court can consider the supplemental information when reaching a decision, but under Ecuadorian law the judge is under no obligation to adopt the estimates. Chevron, which has attacked the credibility of Cabrera’s damages assessment, had the opportunity to submit its own valuations analysis but the company previously indicated it would boycott the process.
Lawyers for the affected communities have asserted Chevron has been trying to sabotage the Ecuador trial by bombarding the court with frivolous motions and boycotting any part of the case that addresses damages. The indigenous and farmer communities first filed the lawsuit in 1993 in U.S. federal court, but it was shifted to Ecuador at Chevron’s request.
“The information in this submission is highly significant because it reflects clearly that there is a terrible oil-related disaster in Ecuador in the area where Chevron operated,” said Fajardo.
“What these analyses make chillingly clear is that thousands of Ecuadorian citizens may well contract and die of cancer in the coming decades because of Chevron’s contamination,” he added.
The analyses, based largely on technical information found in the 200,000-page trial record and relevant studies, found the following damages:
Even if the analysis stops in 1990 – the year when Chevron ceased being the operator of the oil fields – the aggregate cost of excess cancer deaths is still estimated at $12.1 billion based on 1,732 deaths from cancer. (The earlier Cabrera report estimated 1,401 deaths from cancer, but he did not project future deaths.)
The analyses were submitted by the following scientists and technical experts:
The analyses in both English and Spanish, as well as background information on the scientists, can be found at www.chevrontoxico.com.
# # #