Ecuador natives push Chevron for settlement

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By Nima Maghame

The Rainforest Action Network, a non-profit organization that protests the pollution and destruction of natural habitats around the world, recently gathered on a bio-diesel bus named Priscilla with Ecuadorian tribal representative Emergildo Criollo and drove to new Chevron CEO John Watson's home in Lafayette to deliver a petition demanding the company pay for the clean up of Chevron-owned Texaco's contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon rain forest.

“Because of contamination in the river, I have lost two sons and my wife is very ill. I have been in this battle for over 10 years,” said Criollo, who has come to the Bay Area on behalf of the Cohan and Siona people of Amazonian Ecuador as well as the organizations Secoya Indigenous Nations and Frente de Defensa de la Amazonia. They are among the local groups battling Chevron in an Ecuador court, seeking compensation and cleanup money.  

The petition, which has been signed by more than 350,000 people from all over the world, never reached the hands of Watson. The CEO was not home when the activists arrived. The Ecuadorian did have a scheduled closed meeting with Chevron executives at the company's headquarters in San Ramon later that day. He was accompanied by a demonstration outside the corporation's office, where a dozen RAN members listed off names of petition signers.

“We here at Chevron, believe that this is a great first step towards an ongoing dialogue between Chevron and Ecuador,” said Gary Fisher, Chevron's Manager of Public Policy, to RAN activists after the closed meeting with Criollo. 

Criollo lived his entire life in a remote village in Ecuador where he saw Texaco – which was later purchased by Chevron -- come and go, leaving oil pollution everywhere. Consumer activists reports show that an estimated 30,000 people have suffered from contamination in Ecuador, just one country out of many who have reported illnesses and mutations caused by the reported 18 billion gallons of toxic waste dumped in the region.

“[Chevron/Texaco] chose to use pumping technology that was not as advanced as the drilling technology they use in the states, which pumps excess crude back into the ground, to save two to three dollars a barrel...There is free standing oil in this pristine rainforest. It's hot and it just boils in the sun. You can touch it, you can smell it,” said Anderson.

Chevron executives claim that the pollution is the fault of the oil company in charge of extraction now, nationally owned PetroEcuador. They also state they have funded up to $40 million in clean up efforts, a claim that RAN believes to be false. The petition calls for the oil company to fund clean up operations in the region and is estimated to cost them more than $16 billion.

“We believe we are very far away from any resolve from this company,” said Criollo.

 

Comments

A documentary about this ongoing battle was made last year. It's called "Crude" and it's the next movie I have on my Netflix list.

Posted by Matt Stewart on Mar. 13, 2010 @ 10:42 am

And unfortunately, Chevron has just announced that its refinery in Richmond is not one of those slated for closure, even though it's losing money. (Before all of you money-first types start crying about loss of jobs, the environment is infinitely more important, so don't even bother.) And while most people don't know this, that refinery is the biggest polluter of the San Francisco Bay, so its closure would have been a great victory for our environment. Maybe a strong verdict against Chevron in this case will cause it to change its mind and close the refinery in Richmond.

Posted by Jeff Hoffman on Mar. 13, 2010 @ 10:47 am

Jeff,

That refinery provides fully 25% of Richmond's tax revenues. Richmond needs Chevron far more than Chevron needs Richmond.

But I'm sure all those unemployed people will at least have some better air to breathe. Even so, you might want to ask their opinion instead of deciding for them.

Posted by Tom Foolery on Mar. 13, 2010 @ 12:22 pm

Tom,

It's not anyone's choice to destroy and pollute the natural environment. We all live here, and my right to an unpolluted environment trumps anyone's right to make a living by destroying it. But even more important, Chevron destroys the environment for every species and pollutes the air and water. Those species and entities get no benefits from Chevron's destruction, but suffer all the consequences, and have no say in the matter.

As I said in my first post, don't cry to me about jobs or money. The natural environment is infinitely more valuable and important. The animals on this planet, including humanoids, lived without doing significant harm to the natural environment until modern humans began doing it. It's modern humans that have to change their way of life so that the rest of the planet does not have to suffer for it.

Posted by Jeff Hoffman on Mar. 13, 2010 @ 3:20 pm