While BP is Largest Spill in U.S., Chevron’s Ecuador Disaster is Largest in World. Chevron Admits Dumping at Least 16 Billion Gallons of Toxic Waste into Rainforest.
As the nation remains riveted on the tragic BP spill unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, Chevron still holds the record for creating the world’s largest oil-related contamination and it happened deliberately in the populated Amazon rainforest in an even more sensitive ecosystem than the marshes of Louisiana.
Chevron’s illegal oil-related dumping is at the root of a class action lawsuit in Ecuador where the oil giant now faces more than $27 billion in damages for poisoning an area the size of Rhode Island with 18.5 billion gallons of toxic “produced water,” or more than 474 times the amount of contamination estimated to have been spilled in the Gulf of Mexico tragedy, according to calculations made by representatives of the plaintiffs.
Chevron’s contamination has decimated the traditional lifestyles of five indigenous groups in the area, and one group has disappeared, according to the lawsuit. The pollution occurred when Texaco (now owned by Chevron) was the exclusive operator of a large oil concession in the rainforest from 1964 to 1990.
A 17-year trial against Chevron taking place in Ecuador’s courts – moved there from U.S. federal court in 2002 at Chevron’s request – is expected to end later this year. Chevron has declared the trial court is “biased” against it and has announced it will not pay any adverse judgment.
The plaintiffs in the trial are tens of thousands of rainforest residents, including the surviving members of indigenous groups called the Secoya, Cofan, Siona, Huarani, and Kichwa.
These are the facts of Chevron’s dumping in the Amazon and how it compares to the BP spill in the Gulf:
- In the 1970s, Chevron’s predecessor company Texaco (bought by Chevron in 2001) perforated hundreds of oil wells across a 2,000 sq-mile swath of rainforest that was home to the indigenous groups. The area where Chevron operated is one of the most biodiverse in the world, containing almost 10% of the world’s plant species.
- Instead of re-injecting toxic “produced water” (which contains high levels of salt, pure crude, and the carcinogen benzene) deep into the ground – the industry practice then recommended by the American Petroleum Institute – Chevron dumped 18 billion gallons of it into rivers and streams. These waters had been used thousands of years by the local population for its drinking water.
- The BP tragedy was an accident; Chevron’s discharge in Ecuador was deliberate.
- Chevron, as reported by 60 Minutes last year, also built more than 900 unlined waste pits to permanently store toxic sludge – another violation of industry standards. It then built pipes to drain the sludge into nearby streams.
- Chevron also burned gas without controls, creating enormous air pollution and a “black rain” phenomenon in the rainforest.
These facts have been documented in numerous testimonies, in more than 200,000 pages of trial evidence, and in the book Amazon Crude written by law professor Judith Kimerling and published in 1991 just before Texaco fled the country in 1992, according to representatives of the plaintiffs.
Experts have concluded that the Chevron discharged at least 345 million gallons of pure crude oil directly into the rainforest ecosystem, including 17 million from ruptured pipelines. To put this in perspective, the U.S. government has estimated that between 18 and 39 million gallons have been spilled thus far in BP’s disaster in the Gulf, and approximately 11 million gallons of pure crude was spilled during the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Just like BP in the Gulf spill, Chevron continually tries to obfuscate the facts and cover up its responsibility in Ecuador:
- In 1972, a Chevron executive issued a memo ordering that all documents in Ecuador documenting oil spills be destroyed.
- Chevron claims it was “released” from further clean-up responsibility based on a “release” signed with the Government of Ecuador. But Chevron’s “remediation” was a fraud. Evidence presented at trial shows that the small number of pits “remediated” are still as contaminated as sites not touched.
- As a result of Chevron’s fraudulent “remediation,” two company lawyers and ten former Ecuadorian government officials are now under indictment in Ecuador for lying about the clean-up results.
- During the trial in Ecuador, lawyers for the plaintiffs have been subjected to death threats, a Nixon-style dirty tricks campaign to remove a judge, and the use of junk science by Chevron “experts.”
- Chevron claims high cancer rates are caused not by exposure to toxins, but by the poor personal hygiene among the local population.
- Chevron also has tried to silence its Ecuador critics – pressuring media outlets to deny advertising about the company’s human rights problems and even going as far to have five people arrested at its shareholder meeting last week.
For photos of this horrible disaster, click here, or get the book Crude Reflections by Lou Dematteis and Kayana Szymczak. A complete summary of the evidence can be found here. For Chevron’s lies, click here. To purchase a copy of an award winning documentary film about the case, CRUDE, click here (use coupon code ‘AW&CRUDE’ and pay only $15).