Chevron's U.S. Laboratory Operated Without Official Permit From Ecuadorian Government
Amazon Defense Coalition
15 March 2006 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Quito, Ecuador - The laboratory used by Chevron to analyze scientific evidence in a landmark environmental trial in Ecuador operated without official permits from the Ecuadorian authorities, potentially leading to another major setback for the oil giant in the closely watched legal case.
The revelation means that all of the 677 water and soil samples submitted by Chevron to the court, at an estimated cost of $2 million, could be declared invalid. Chevron's legal team will likely have to explain their bungling to both the trial judge and their own bosses at Chevron, the California-based oil giant that now owns Texaco.
The news comes as the latest blow to the oil major in the multi-billion dollar, class-action lawsuit in which 30,000 rainforest dwellers are demanding damages for the devastation wrought by the dumping of more than 18 billion gallons of toxic formation waters directly into the Amazon.
All of Texaco's samples presented to the court were analyzed by Severn Trent Laboratories' facility in Houston, Texas. The lab analysis revealed that more than half of the 677 samples had concentrations of various toxic contaminants in violation of Ecuadorian law.
But according to a spokesperson for the Ecuadorian Accreditation Agency (OAE by its Spanish acronym), Severn Trent is not licensed in Ecuador as required by Ecuadorian law. The spokesperson added that Texaco's scientific results could therefore not be used in any Ecuadorian court case.
In contrast, the laboratory used by the plaintiffs, HAVOC, is certified by the Ecuadorian government, after a lengthy audit process.
Ironically, Texaco's bungling might not hinder its defense; Texaco's scientific results have been so damning that the plaintiffs' legal team had expected to be able to win the case relying on the oil company's forensic evidence alone. Fortunately, the plaintiffs have also been carrying out their own scientific tests and submitting these to the court. Of 219 soil and water samples analyzed by the plaintiffs as of last December, 185 were in violation of Ecuadorian law.
"It would be a real pity to declare Texaco's results invalid as the company's legal team is proving our case against them all on their own," said Luis Yanza, a leader of the affected communities.
Referring to Adolfo Callejas, Texaco's chief defense attorney in the case, Mr Yanza added: "If I were the head of Texaco, I'd sack Callejas on the spot. He's the best friend we plaintiffs have."
The plaintiffs allege that Texaco deliberately dumped "formation water", a toxic by-product of the oil extraction process, into the rainforest in its concession in the Ecuadorian Amazon from 1964 to 1992 in order to save money by avoiding the standard industry practice of re-injecting the waste.
The dumping is alleged to have contaminated the water-table across an area the size of Rhode Island and where local people rely on streams and rivers for drinking and bathing water. Rates of cancer, miscarriages and birth defects have all risen, according to independent peer-reviewed health studies. The trial is expected to conclude in 2007, with a decision in 2008.