Ecuador Spill Is “Chevron’s Chernobyl?”

QUITO, Ecuador

The long-term war of words between U.S. oil company Chevron and Ecuadorian jungle communities took a new turn last week, when campaigners released a video, "Chevron's Amazon Chernobyl," which they claim shows how the energy giant knowingly polluted the water supply of thousands of people in the Amazon between 1964 and 1990.

“This video shows in devastating detail that what Chevron did in Ecuador continues to cause tremendous harm and suffering to thousands of people,” said Karen Hinton, the U.S. spokesperson for the Ecuadorian communities.

According to the Amazon Defense Coalition, “the oil giant (operating under the Texaco brand) admitted that it deliberately dumped 16-18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into rivers and streams relied on by local inhabitants for their drinking water.”

The film alleges that more than 900 unlined waste pits were used to store oil and toxic water in the 1970s and 1980s, and the contamination continues to pollute the surrounding soil and water supplies, with disastrous consequences for the local people.

The wastewater included toxic chemicals, such as the carcinogen benzene, and heavy metals, according to an April 23 statement from the campaign group.

According to the Amazon Defense Coalition: “Tests taken during the eight-year trial found that deadly toxins are as high and higher at the well sites Chevron claimed to have cleaned as at those it did not.”

The campaigners lay out a litany of complaints against the company, including: “Chevron ignored pollution standards, manipulated evidence, caused harm to human health, tried to entrap a judge in a bribery scheme, and ultimately proved the legal claims of the rainforest communities with its own evidence.”

Chevron’s claims to have fully remediated the pollution have been denied by the campaigners, who say the company lied in U.S. and Ecuadorian court.

Chevron has vociferously defended itself against all these allegations. The company has already issued its own videos that set out to demolish the accusations against it. The company’s seven films launch a vigorous attack on what it describes as the pervasive fraud plaguing the litigation and “deceptions” in evidence that underlie the misguided and meritless lawsuit.

The company has sought to turn the pro-plaintiff film “Crude” to its advantage by showing unused segments from the film that discredit the legal team and environmental experts of the plaintiffs.

In its fight against the $18 billion USD judgment made against it by the Ecuadorian justice system, Chevron has launched challenges on several fronts.

"Chevron has already shown through the plaintiffs' lawyers' own documents and film outtakes that Judge Zambrano's ruling against Chevron was ghostwritten by the plaintiffs' lawyers,” Chevron vice president and general counsel Hewitt Pate said last month.

“Evidence also shows that the plaintiffs' representatives paid bribes to at least one court official through a secret bank account," he added.

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