Monday, November 16, 2009

Chevron, dirtier than their own oil

What happens when you're a Big Oil corporation and you pump toxic waste into an entire region causing cancer, birth defects and miscarriages?

Obviously you create a multimillion dollar spin campaign, pour money into lobbying Congress and hope it takes care of the problem for you.

And that is where Chevron has been spending it's "Human Energy." At the cost of human lives.

For years, Chevron has been ignoring complaints against its practices around the world, despite lawsuits, media coverage and the existence of a website that explains them in great detail, the True Cost of Chevron. The specific story being played out right now has its own site as well, ChevronToxico, dedicated to the egregious pollution in the Amazon rain forest that has devastated Ecuador.

According the site, Texaco, which was bought by Chevron in 2001...
"Deliberately dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater, spilled roughly 17 million gallons of crude oil, and left hazardous waste in hundreds of open pits dug out of the forest floor. To save money, Texaco chose to use environmental practices that were obsolete, did not meet industry standards, and were illegal in Ecuador and the United States."
For the last 16 years a group of U.S. trial lawyers has been fighting to hold Chevron accountable for $27 billion in damages. A lawsuit that was originally filed in 1993 in the U.S. was refiled in Ecuador in 2003 and was expected to conclude next spring. What does that mean here in the U.S.? The lobbying has begun.

And no one lobbies like Big Oil.

According to Politico, Chevron has been lobbying Congress since President Barack Obama's Senate days, trying to convince the U.S. Government to end preferential treatment Ecuador gets on its imports if it refuses to drop the lawsuit. In other words, Chevron wants to the U.S. to be heavy-handed against another country because it refuses to clean up its own mess.

Said a Chevron spokesperson: "If we were able to call a timeout and make the lawsuit disappear, then this entire issue disappears."

Really? Seriously? Unfortunately, yes: this is how Big Oil looks at the world. When a major corporation shows extreme negligence in destroying a region and causing major health issues, the U.S. government should just make the issue disappear.

Not so fast, Chevron.

Rep. Linda Sanchez of California has led the charge against allowing Chevron to drill a hole through ethics and international relations (via Politico):
"Trying to leverage our trade policy in order to get a lawsuit dismissed that is currently pending before the Ecuadorean court. It is a way of trying to undermine the rule of law, and I just find that completely abhorrent. It’s shocking."
But, considering we are talking about Big Oil, not altogether surprising.

Chevron has spent more than $1.6 million in lobbying fees this year alone on this issue, but also an unknown amount on some downright James Bond-like tactics in Ecuador.

According to Politico, Chevron paid a convicted drug trafficker and one of its own contractors to secretly tape meetings between Ecuadorian officials and the judge in the case. That tactic backfired when the judge simply recused himself and the credibility of the two “whistleblowers” came into question. It also responded to a "60 Minutes" report by creating a "news" video blaming Ecuador for its problems. But, the Columbia Journalism Review called the report "deceptive," saying that it, "might be unprecedented for how it blurred the line between public relations and journalism."

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