State Department Should Investigate Environmental Abuses in Ecuador by Chevron, Say Congressmen Howard Berman and Jim McGovern
Congressmen Describe Human Rights Report As "Laughably Short" of Facts on Oil Pollution in Amazon Rainforest
Amazon Defense Coalition
19 December 2008 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Washington, DC – The Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee and the Co-Chair of the House Human Rights Commission have called for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to investigate why the State Department's annual human rights report includes "countless" examples of abuses across the world but fails to mention the "detrimental impact" of environmental destruction in the Ecuadorian rainforest from the oil operations of Texaco, now owned by Chevron.
In a letter to Rice, U.S. Congressmen Howard Berman and Jim McGovern wrote: "We are … deeply troubled by the fact that the Human Rights Report does not even begin to reflect the grave human rights situation in the region. When the 2007 Report states that 'Although oil companies increased efforts to minimize the environmental and social impact of their oil projects in the Amazonian region, environmental damage, particularly deforestation, continued,' it falls laughably short of factually documenting what it is legally mandated to do, which is to report on the 'status of internally recognized human rights.'"
Berman serves as Chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, and McGovern is Co-Chair of the House Human Rights Commission. McGovern recently returned from a congressional trip to Ecuador's rainforest to view the environmental impact of oil operations in a large area of rainforest where Texaco (now Chevron) built and operated hundreds of wells in the 1970s and 1980s.
Chevron is currently a defendant in a civil suit in Ecuador where a court-appointed expert found damages could be as high as $27 billion. Plaintiffs say the toxic dumping by Texaco was 30 times larger than the oil spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster and was done intentionally to lower production costs.
In their letter, the congressmen asked Rice to answer several questions:
- Why is there no mention of the high cancer rate and the significant numbers of deaths that occurred in the region?
- Why does the Report not state that this is an issue going as far back as 1964 when U.S. companies first extracted oil?
- Why does the Report give countless examples of ongoing human rights investigations, court cases, national human rights committee proceedings, but fails to mention the 15-year-old lawsuit against Chevron, which is now pending in Ecuador?
The court-appointed expert in Ecuador determined that the contamination was largely the product of sub-standard practices used by Texaco from 1964 to 1990, when the company dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste over an area of rainforest roughly the size of Rhode Island. Chevron now owns Texaco and will bear any liability in the case, which is being tried in Ecuador at Chevron's request.
According to the expert, more than 1,000 people have died of cancer in the region because of the oil contamination and five indigenous groups are struggling to survive. A final court ruling on Chevron's liability and damages is expected in 2009. A copy of the letter can be obtained at www.chevrontoxico.org at Featured Documents or by emailing the media contact above.