Amazon Indian Leader Tells ChevronTexaco His People are on the Brink of Extinction Due to the Company's Oil Contamination
ChevronTexaco CEO Attempts to Shift Blame for Oil Disaster – Calls Ecuador's Government "Inept" and "Inadequate"
29 April 2004 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Bianca Jagger Appeals to Company to Take Action in Ecuador: “ChevronTexaco is Evading its Moral and Ethical Responsibility”
Investors Holding More than some 58 Million Shares Vote for an Ecuador-related Resolution
San Ramon, CA — At yesterday’s ChevronTexaco Annual Meeting, CEO David
O’Reilly was met with a growing wave of controversy over the oil
pollution his company left in the Ecuadorian Amazon following two
decades of drilling. Amazonian indigenous leader Toribio Aguinda,
renowned human rights advocate Bianca Jagger, shareholders and local
clergy and labor leaders each appealed to Mr. O’Reilly for his
corporation to clean up the expansive oil contamination his company
created and that has resulted in an environmental disaster and health
crisis in the rainforest region.
Mr. Aguinda from the Cofan people explained to Mr. O’Reilly and shareholders the toll oil operation and contamination have taken on his community. “My people are on the brink of extinction. I fear we many not be here in another five years.” The Cofan people now number only 800, down from 15,000 when Texaco (now ChevronTexaco) began oil operation on their territory in the 1970s.
Several studies have documented the growing health crisis in the oil region where Texaco operated and left behind more than 600 toxic waste pits and an infrastructure that continues to pollute the area’s rivers and streams—the only source of drinking water most people have—with toxic oil waste to this day. The studies have found significantly elevated levels of cancer, miscarriage and other health effects in the communities near the Texaco oil pits. (Contact Amazon Watch for copies of these studies.)
Also traveling from the region, Rosa Moreno, a licensed nurse, spoke of the deplorable health conditions faced by the majority of her community in San Carlos, all attributed to the toxic contamination of the company’s unlined oil pits. “Every day, I see children with skin irritations, men and women with cancer of the throat and pancreas, women who have miscarriages, all in terrible pain.” Rosa has lost three family members to cancer in the oil town near ChevronTexaco pits.
In response to the criticism of his company, Mr. O’Reilly on several occasions told the room of some 200 shareholders, employees and journalists that the Ecuadorian government was solely responsible for the Amazon region’s ills, saying the oil pollution that has contaminated the region is a result of subsequent oil operations by Ecuadorian state oil company Petroecuador.
Mr. O’Reilly also stated that the Ecuadorian government is “inept” and “inadequate,” in an attempt to explain why the people living near his company’s former oil operations experience significantly higher rates of cancer, miscarriages, birth defects and other health problems than other populations.
Bianca Jagger, who has visited the polluted region of Ecuador twice in the last six months, also spoke directly to the CEO. “ChevronTexaco in Ecuador is responsible for the worst oil related disaster in the history of Latin America, surpassing in scale the Exxon Valdez spill,” stated Jagger. “None of my past experiences as a human rights advocate prepared me for the suffering I witnessed. ChevronTexaco is evading its moral and ethical responsibility.”
Jagger also warned that this situation has the potential to become a major corporate governance issue for the company. “Has ChevronTexaco management adequately disclosed the potential six billion dollar legal liability to its shareholders?” asked Jagger.
Local clergy member Reverend Steven Harms who visited the region last November also appealed to the company, explaining the poisoned areas left in Ecuador had an effect here at home. “This is poisoning the spirit of this community,” said Rev. Harms.
Investors also took center stage expressing concern that the Ecuador situation could harm the company. A resolution sponsored by Trillium Assets Management (www.trilliuminvest.com) garnered 9 percent support from investors. Both New York Common Retirement Fund holding $350 million in shares and and the Californian Public Employees Retirement System (CALPERS) voted in favor of the resolution.