Banner Blares From Circling Airplane: Clean Up Toxic Mess In Ecuador
Amazon Defense Coalition
4 December 2011 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Thousand Oaks, CA – Two leading U.S.-based environmental groups are taking their fight over Chevron's oil catastrophe in Ecuador directly to CEO John S. Watson by sending an airplane to fly over the weekend rounds of the Tiger Woods-hosted Chevron World Challenge golf tournament in California.
A banner trailing the plane said: "Chevron CEO Watson: Clean Up Your Toxic Mess In Ecuador". The environmental groups Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and Amazon Watch sponsored the banner.
"Chevron has spent the last 18 years waging unprecedented public relations and legal campaigns to avoid dealing with the environmental and public health catastrophe it left in the Amazon rainforest," said Ginger Cassady, a RAN campaign official.
"Today we're challenging Chevron to clean more than its public image and repair the toxic legacy it left in Ecuador."
An Ecuador court earlier this year found Chevron liable for dumping billions of toxic waste into the Amazon rainforest, decimating indigenous groups and causing an outbreak of cancer and other oil-related diseases in an area roughly the size of Rhode Island.
Chevron operated in Ecuador from 1964 to 1992 under the Texaco brand.
"We want Mr. Watson and his golfing friends to know that we hold him accountable for the refusal of the company to take responsibility for the world's worst oil-related disaster," said Karen Hinton, the U.S. spokesperson for dozens of rainforest communities suing Chevron in Ecuador.
The public scolding of Watson by RAN and Amazon Watch comes on the heels of damning statements from another group of Latin Americans – government officials in Brazil, home to one of the most highly-prized offshore oil fields in the world. After Chevron spilled an estimated 110,000 gallons of pure crude into the Atlantic Ocean offshore the state of Rio, Brazilian officials were outraged by Chevron executives there who initially lied about the origin of the spill, low-balled the number of barrels released into the ocean and told regulators the damage was contained when it wasn't. See here.
The Brazilians are threatening to fine Chevron for up to $145 million and imprison some of its executives over their efforts to cover up the extent of the spill.
To make matters even worse for Watson, his company was named last week the "most toxic" energy company of 2011 by AlterNet, a prestigious U.S.-based online magazine that closely tracks environmental issues. See here and here.
Chevron's enormous Ecuador liability is of special concern to Watson because he is the person ultimately responsible for the failure of Chevron to abide by an Ecuador court order that the company pay for a clean-up. He also has faced accusations the he suffers from a conflict of interest for failing to properly vet Texaco for the Ecuador liability when Chevron bought its rival in 2001.
If the judgment in Ecuador is upheld on appeal, the Ecuadorians will lawfully attempt to seize Chevron's assets in countries around the world where it operates. Chevron sold off its assets in Ecuador several years ago in an effort to evade its legal responsibilities in the South American nation, said Hinton.
Aside from Woods, those playing in the invitation-only golf tournament include luminaries such as former Masters champion Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar, the leading money winner on the PGA tour in 2010.