Reposted from Medium.
Today a group of indigenous Ecuadorians take their long-running fight against Chevron to a Canadian court to try and seize company assets there as payment for a $9.5 billion Ecuador judgment against the oil giant for massive oil contamination in the Amazon rainforest.
It’s been 23 years since they first filed their lawsuit in U.S. court, only to have Texaco, which Chevron later bought, successfully plead to move one of the world’s largest and most complicated environmental trials to Ecuador. The U.S. courts agreed, though, it took ten years for them to sort it out, thanks largely to Texaco’s and later Chevron’s ability to drag out every legal proceeding as long as possible.
Delay has been their strategy from the beginning. Deplete the Ecuadorians of resources. Wait them out. And, when that didn’t work, Chevron’s top executives accused them and their lawyers of a criminal conspiracy to “shake down” the company.
In 2003, the Ecuadorians re-filed their lawsuit in the South American country, and in 2012, an Ecuador court ruled against Chevron. Having sold all of its assets in Ecuador, Chevron refused to pay the judgment even after the nation’s two appellate courts upheld it.
During that nine years in Ecuador, Chevron devised all manner of false excuses (aka lies) to side step its responsibility for cleaning up a toxic mess deadlier and dirtier than the BP and Exxon Valdez disasters.
Today a Canadian judge will hear the company’s excuses for the first time. For the Ecuadorians? A million times plus in the two decades they have been waiting for justice.
Chevron Excuse #1: We aren’t Texaco. We never drilled in Ecuador.
The argument boils down to we bought their assets, but not their liabilities. No court anywhere has ever bought that one.
Chevron Excuse #2: What contamination? There is no contamination. It is a figment of your imagination.
But, then, someone found a document where Texaco admitted to intentionally dumping around 16 billion gallons of toxic waste water into the rainforest’s rivers and streams that people still use as drinking and cooking water today. And, let’s not forget those 50,000 or so soil and water samples that Chevron itself took and found contamination. Of course, we’ve got hundreds of photos of the huge unlined pits where Texaco permanently stored left-over crude. I guess Chevron thought no one would go check it out, either. The Ecuadorians regularly operate a “Toxico Tour” to show people how Texaco treated their rainforest like a trash dump.
Chevron Excuse #3: If there is contamination, it’s not harming anyone.
Right. And, in the 70s, when Texaco first started drilling, the gringo workers told the indigenous that rubbing oil on their bodies was as healthy as drinking milk.Chevron Excuse #4: OK, so maybe digesting oil and carcinogenic waste water is not such a good idea, but Texaco made a deal with the Ecuador government that if they cleaned up a few pits, the government wouldn’t sue Texaco, so legally we aren’t responsible.
Hold up. Lots of problems here.
1) Texaco made the deal after the Ecuadorians filed their lawsuit, and a U.S. court said the deal was not binding.
2) The deal itself said it wasn’t binding on the Ecuadorians.
3) Ecuador’s courts later ruled the same, as did an international arbitration panel.
4) Even if it were binding, Texaco faked the clean-up. They just poured dirt over the pits.
Chevron Excuse #5: We need to take tests at all of the well sites that Texaco drilled and the pits it built — over 300 well sites and over 900 pits. And, if the Ecuador courts don’t allow it, then that proves they are corrupt.
During the Ecuador trial, it took six months to finish testing at one well site because of Chevron’s legal maneuvers. (Do the math. 300 well [email protected] a year = 150 years.) The courts reviewed over 60,000 soil and water samples and found extensive contamination. No one needed to test all the sites.
Chevron Excuse #6: An Ecuador judge wouldn’t let us take tests at all the well sites, and then he ruled against us, so the whole entire judiciary is corrupt, (even though Chevron argued in U.S. court that it could get a fair trial in Ecuador). We are going to hire 2,000 lawyers and file a RICO/fraud lawsuit, back in the same U.S. court where it all started 23 years ago.
Why? Because we have so much money lying around we would rather spend it on lawyers than help people in Ecuador.
Chevron Excuse #7: We are going to do this our way because we are big oil. And, the U.S. better not let little countries screw around with big oil companies.
Literally. See this Newsweek article.
Chevron Excuse #8: Thank you, U.S. courts, for not letting these little Ecuadorians screw around with us.
U.S. courts ruled against the Ecuadorians after hearing “fraud” and “bribery” evidence from a witness that Chevron paid at least $2 million to testify.
Like we said, till hell freezes over, we are never paying the judgment.
The Ecuadorians go to Canada to seize Chevron’s assets there.
Chevron Excuse #9: Yes, but Chevron USA — who made the decision to buy Texaco’s mess — is NOT Chevron Canada. It is a separate business.
Never mind that all of Chevron Canada’s profits go directly to Chevron USA and its shareholders.
Chevron Excuse #10: We are not paying these little Ecuadorians because, if we do, even more little people will come after us.
And, we can’t have that.
Stay tuned for more reports from a Canadian courtroom this week.