Chevron Chief Clearly Uncomfortable With Ecuador Topic
Amazon Defense Coalition
16 June 2009 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Quito, Ecuador – Amazonian leaders in Ecuador are blasting Chevron CEO David O'Reilly for engaging in "lies and deceit" during a public debate last week in San Francisco over energy-related topic that included the company's expected $27.3 billion liability in Ecuador.
"David O'Reilly is an untrustworthy individual who is propagating lies and deceit about Ecuador," said Pablo Fajardo, the lawyer for dozens of indigenous and farmer communities in Ecuador's Amazon. Fajardo, who lives in the Amazon, commented after reading a translated copy of the debate transcript.
O'Reilly had asked his debating partner, Carl Pope of the Sierra Club, to keep the controversial Ecuador issue off the table during the debate. But the issue was raised anyway by the debate moderator, Allan Murray, the deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal.
Chevron is accused of dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways and abandoning more than 900 toxic waste pits gouged out of the jungle floor, which continue to leach toxins into streams and groundwater used as drinking water by the local indigenous population. Evidence in the case shows cancer rates in the area have spiked and a team of court experts estimated 1,401 people have died of cancer due to the contamination.
O'Reilly is already under fire in a separate fraud investigation by the New York Attorney General over misleading statements made by the company to downplay its financial risk in the Ecuador litigation. Two Chevron lawyers also are under criminal indictment in Ecuador for lying about clean-up results.
When asked by Murray about the Ecuador issue - one that he said "originated with Texaco" with "horrible consequences" for the people - O'Reilly relied on one of Chevron's basic talking points. "A group of U.S. and Ecuadorian trial lawyers are holding Chevron hostage," he said, appearing nervous. "The case is based on false claims, and is an attempt to invalidate an objective decision by the Ecuadorian government."
Fajardo responded strongly.
"Chevron admitted that Texaco dumped billions of gallons of toxic water of formation into the Amazon and left hundreds of waste pits which have been meticulously documented by independent experts," he said. "So what are the false claims?"
Fajardo said O'Reilly lied when he claimed Texaco cleaned its old sites to "EPA standards". In reality, the EPA does not have standards for soil clean up - states do, but scientific evidence at the trial shows Chevron is often hundreds of times over typical U.S. state norms at its remediated sites.
O'Reilly also failed to mention that two Chevron lawyers (along with seven Ecuadorian government officials) are under criminal indictment for lying about the results of the clean-up. An official investigation could uncover bribes suspected to have been paid by Texaco to government officials to obtain a release, said Fajardo.
O'Reilly claimed that Texaco made "only" $500 million from its Ecuador operations. However, hard data suggest Texaco had profits upwards of $30 billion, with the lower number the amount booked to the company's fourth-tier Ecuadorian subsidiary.
Fajardo noted that neither O'Reilly nor any member of Chevron's Board of Directors had visited Ecuador.
"Bottom line is that a court will decide this question, which clearly makes O'Reilly uncomfortable," said Fajardo. "This is not a man accustomed to being held accountable by indigenous people in the rainforest."