Chevron's Amazon 'fake cleanup' trial

June 25, 2009 at 9:32 AM   |   0 comments

QUITO, Ecuador, June 25 (UPI) -- A report submitted this week to a court in Ecuador finding dangerous levels of contamination at oil wells Chevron says it cleaned up in the 1990s is expected to reinforce a fraud indictment against two Chevron lawyers in a $27.3 billion environmental lawsuit against the oil company.

Seven Ecuadorian officials were also included in the indictment last September for helping the Chevron lawyers orchestrate a fake cleanup of toxic waste at two oil wells in the 1990s.

Chevron dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways from the mid-1960s to 1990.

The disaster was dubbed the "Amazon Chernobyl" by the international media for the extent of destruction of pristine rainforest an area the size of Rhode Island, and which is estimated at 30 times worse than the Exxon Valdez spill.

Texaco entered Ecuador's rainforests in the mid-1960s, and at the time it was the sole operator of the largest oil concession in the rainforest.

Chevron is also accused of creating nearly 1,000 unlined waste pits for toxic sludge that seeped into groundwater that Amazon residents drank.

It is also accused of being responsible for hundreds of oil spills.

Health studies have shown that cancer and other toxic-related health problems have spiked among indigenous Amazon tribes and other communities in the area.

Texaco claimed to have "remediated" the 45 sites in question between 1995 and 1998 with an extensive cleanup.

But Pablo Fajardo, an Ecuadorian lawyer who is representing the communities in the northern Amazon in the class-action lawsuit, said the so-called remediation was little more than the dumping of dirt over a few toxic waste pools.

Independents tests, including from Chevron itself, have shown massive levels of life-threatening toxins still residing in the northern Amazon area where the oil company operated.

Earlier this year Chevron requested eight more inspections, a move that the plaintiffs argued was a last-ditch attempt to delay the end of the trial.

The latest results of two sites that were purportedly "remediated" showed toxin levels several times above permitted levels.

The findings were consistent with all the earlier tests. A damages assessment made last year on all 45 sites showed toxic levels beyond the legal limit, in some cases thousands of times higher.

With damages estimated at between $7.2 billion and $16.3 billion, the lawsuit is expected to result in one of the largest civil judgments in history.

Fajardo was named last December as a CNN "Hero" for leading the fight to hold Chevron accountable.

Chevron claims the trial is a "farce" and "rigged" and in full expectation of an "adverse" decision is preparing to appeal.

In 1992 Texaco turned over its entire operation to Ecuador's state-owned oil company Petroecuador, which, studies show, is continuing to contaminate the environment.

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