By now, many readers of this blog know that oil giant Chevron has long whined that it is the victim of a grand conspiracy in Ecuador, designed to force the company to make a big payout over pollution that isn't theirs. The company repeatedly claims that it operated in a responsible manner in Ecuador, and that, if any oil contamination remains in Ecuador today, it must be the responsibility of national oil company Petroecuador.
Having recently returned from the Ecuadorean Amazon after visiting with victims of Chevron's contamination, talking with the company's own former workers, and touring sites where only Chevron has ever operated, I know this is a lie.
But don't take my word for it. Take Chevron's.
Or, more specifically, take two extremely thorough independent audits commissioned by the company itself, looking into its environmental impact as it was preparing to depart Ecuador after nearly three decades of operations. [See the two audits here & here]
According to today's press release from the Amazon Defense Coalition:
A U.S. Federal Court has been presented with two separate audits conducted at Chevron’s request that show “clear and convincing evidence” that the oil giant knowingly dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste directly into the Amazon and subsequently lied to cover it up...
The audits themselves are filled with technical jargon and don't make for exactly riveting reading. But all you need to see are a handful of excerpts that cement the fact that Chevron knowingly abandoned massive contamination in Ecuador, and continues to lie about it today to the victims, to the public, and to the courts.
A few excerpts from Chevron's audits, as highlighted in the ADC's press release:
- “All twenty-two production stations are currently, or have at some time, discharged oily produced water to the environment and flared excess gas. The stations have produced a total of approximately 1.4 billion barrels of oil, 250 million cubic feet of gas and 375 million barrels of produced water during the period 1964 to 1990.”
- “The audit identified hydrocarbon contamination requiring remediation at all production facilities and a majority of the drill sites.”
- “Produced water (which contains carcinogens and toxic heavy metals) is being discharged to the environment in all cases.”
- “Produced waste is then passed through a series of open, unlined pits. The remaining oil emulsion and produced water is discharged into a local creek or river or in some instances directly into the jungle...Produced water has historically not been tested prior to disposal...”
- “Contamination of soil and water was observed at well sites, production stations and along roadways, flowlines and secondary pipelines.”
- “Workover, completion wastes, salt solutions and oil/water emulsions have historically been disposed of into well site pits. ... Little maintenance has reportedly been done on any of the pits at the well sites.”
- “[Texaco’s] operation included the intentional burning of crude oil from spills and contained in pits. This operation usually created large amounts of black smoke and soot that can potentially impair the environment and human health.”
In his 1894 list of paradoxical axioms 'Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young', Irish poet Oscar Wilde wrote, "If one tells the truth, one is sure sooner or later to be found out."
I have always enjoyed this phrase for its multiple meanings.
In Chevron's case, the company has battled the truth, as it's potentially far more expensive than its self-serving lies. But it has also inadvertently told the truth on a few occasions, such as throughout the audits excerpted above, which tell a frighteningly truthful tale of the deliberate decisions the company made for decades which poisoned the environment of tens of thousands of people in Ecuador.
These occasional accidental truthful admissions, along with the mountains of evidence studied in the ongoing trial, will be affirmed before too long.
In the interests of the many people who continue to suffer from Chevron's neglect and dishonesty in Ecuador, let us hope that someone at the company will develop a conscience and remember the lessons their mothers taught them as children.
Han Shan is the Coordinator of Amazon Watch's Clean Up Ecuador Campaign