Standing Up To Chevron ran in The Hill this week. The piece by Karen Hinton takes Chevron to task over their efforts to silence critics.
The chilling message of (the judge’s) ruling should make many professionals think twice about taking on powerful interests. Public relations executives representing corporations on either side of litigation could be accused of conspiring to drive down stock prices. Lobbyists could be named as racketeers seeking to put a competitor out of business. Issue a critical press release or meet with a public official, and accusations will fly about extorting and shaking down profitable companies.
Read between the lines and it becomes clear that the extortion charges are a ruse. Chevron’s real agenda is to obtain a ruling from U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan that the recent $9.5 billion Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron is unenforceable. Such a ruling could be used as a litigation tool in what will likely be future court disputes about the judgment’s enforcement. Judge Kaplan has not hidden his bias in Chevron’s favor and his utter distaste for the Ecuadorians and their country.
You always hear charges of judicial activism against judgments that are progressive. But if ever there was a case of judicial activism, it’s Judge Kaplan’s siding with Chevron.
The Chevron Pit covers it pretty well. Not only did Kaplan channel a Chevron lobbyist argument in Newsweek magazine, he went way beyond the charge of his office by determining what industry deserves protections.
We think Judge Kaplan’s TRO-related decisions represent a clear and arguably extreme example of judicial activism. As noted over at chevroninecuador.com, the job of determining whether a particular sector of the economy or individual industry demands extraordinary legal protection belongs to Congress, not the courts. His de facto policy-making on behalf of one specific corporation, Chevron, is therefore much more breathtaking (and inappropriate) when viewed from a “checks and balances” perspective.
The DeSmog Blog has a powerful and shocking exclusive about Chevron’s actions in Ecuador. They have obtained internal Chevron had inappropriate private meetings with the Government about the case.
The documents clearly show that Chevron’s one goal is to avoid responsibility for the devastation they caused. From 1993 to 2002 Chevron argued that the case should be held in Ecuador, since the crimes happened there. They even privately lobbied the Ecuadorian Government for help moving the case from the U.S. Now that they’ve been found guilty in Ecuador they argue that it’s illegitimate and can’t be enforced.
This is clear and undeniable hypocrisy.
They sum it up with a clear condemnation:
Chevron’s culpability for its legacy of pollution is as clear as the rainwater the people now rely on for drinking and cooking since they can no longer safely use the contaminated groundwater and river water that supported their civilization prior to the oil company’s arrival.
Chevron should accept the Ecuadorian court’s verdict and apologize to the people of Ecuador. But instead, the company will appeal, delay and deny responsibility until there are no victims left standing. With the oil industry, “it’s all politics.”
The folks over at Rainforest Action Network have a great new site up: Chevron’s Human Rights Hitmen.
The plain truth is that what Chevron has done in the Amazon is a human rights issue. They have destroyed the lives and livelihood of Ecuadorians by dumping over 18 billion gallons of toxic waste. They have poisoned thousands of people but instead of doing the right thing and taking responsibility they have hired character assassins and try to cover up the truth.
From the site:
But rather than take responsibility for cleaning up its oily mess in Ecuador, Chevron has enlisted a team of legal vultures, PR hacks, and other people more greedy than principled to distract attention from the overwhelming evidence of its guilt and deny justice to the victims of Chevron’s contamination. Help us expose Chevron’s Human Rights Hitmen by using the buttons to the right to share with your friends, family, and other networks.
A little bad news out of New York City if you happen to care for environmental justice and holding big corporate polluters accountable for ravaging third world counties.
A U.S. District Court Judge in Manhattan issued a preliminary injunction against Ecuadorians seeking justice against Chevron from enforcing the historic $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron. Chevron Pit has the statement from Amazon Defense coalition on why this unbelievable decision was a “slap in the face” for Ecuadorians seeking justice.
RAN’s Understory blog had more on this activist judge:
In addition to being biased in Chevron’s favor, Kaplan allegedly encouraged Chevron to file the RICO suit in the first place. At a September hearing, Kaplan said, “Now, do the phrases Hobbs Act, extortion, RICO, have any bearing here?”— obviously signaling that he’d be willing to hear such allegations made in his courtroom. As Donziger’s brief says, ”It is no wonder that Chevron would seek to have the [RICO suit] assigned to the very judge who invited and encouraged its instigation.”
Kaplan wrote to the U.S. State Department requesting input on the implications of Chevron’s RICO suit for international relations with Ecuador, but the State Dept. replied with a big fat “No comment.” Translation: You and Chevron are on your own, Kaplan.
Unbelievable. Where is the justice?
Apparently one of Chevron’s shady legal tactics to evade justice in Ecuador has been to scapegoat Petroecuador - the state owned oil company.
ChevronPit lays out the key facts undercutting Chevron’s arguments:
- Sites operated by Chevron only and closed before Petroecuador became operator contain illegal levels of toxic materials, in violation of Ecuadorian laws.
- The vast majority of contamination at well sites occurs during the drilling and development (not once production starts), and the Ecuadorians’ lawsuit incorporates only well sites and stations built and operated by Chevron.
- Petroecuador inherited Chevron’s sub-standard and faulty infrastructure designed with the intention of releasing toxins into the environment. Chevron’s subsequent abandonment of its facilities does not absolve it of liability.
- Petroecuador made dramatic improvements in Chevron’s prior environmental practices in virtually every respect, including building re-injection wells to pump the wastewater back into the ground, instead of dumping it directly in the rainforest as Texaco did. Petroecuador also stopped using unlined pits for permanent storage of the toxic sludge and developed an oil spill reporting and management system, something Chevron never did.
This all seems like another part of Chevron’s attempt to evade responsibility and blame everyone. Pathetic.
The story in London’s Independent newspaper last week was unequivocal: Chevron has been fined more than $8 billion for causing an environmental disaster called by some “the Amazon’s Chernobyl” (it has also been fined another billion for reparations). Texaco caused the problem and fought tooth and nail for nearly a decade to avoid paying on the lawsuit. It became Chevron’s fight when it bought Texaco in 2001, and the company has already vowed to appeal the verdict. Its alleged victims are now preparing for the next round.
This is the same Chevron that is running a glossy “We Agree” branding campaign that claims it’s in a conversation with people about saving the planet and, oddly enough, supporting communities.
Every CMO should take note of this dichotomy: Both stories are true when presented separately. It’s only when you put them together — which is exactly what I think consumers are going to begin to do more of — that they add up to one big lie. So you need to make sure your brand isn’t risking this sort of conflict.
Ouch. HT Chevron Pit.
There is a great post over at The Chevron Pit detailing the devastation Chevron has caused in Ecuador.
Here is a good excerpt:
No one is to blame for Chevron’s crimes in the Amazon but the company itself. For that reason, and in light of the recent historic court decision handed down in Ecuador, we felt it imperative to provide a brief summary of Chevron’s worst offenses.
Chevron dumped chemical-laden water into natural streams and rivers.
Chevron dumped approximately 16 billions gallons of “produced water”—water extracted from the ground during oil drilling that is loaded with toxic chemicals—into jungle soils and streams near its well sites. At each of its processing stations, Chevron built large pipes that drained directly into nearby streams and rivers. At the time it was dumping this toxic water into the rainforest, the evidence shows that Chevron was well aware of its dangerous effects and had developed technologies to minimize its risks. It refused to apply any of those technologies in Ecuador. In fact, Chevron was still dumping produced water directly into streams and rivers in Ecuador over 70 years after the industry had stopped the practice in the United States due to its damaging environmental effects.
The post continues detailing air pollution, oil spills and toxic byproducts.
Oil is the dirtiest industry in the world and Chevron, one the world’s largest companies, must be the oiliest. That’s saying something when you consider it has rivals including BP, Shell, Exxon and Oxy. Never mind the gross violations of the Ecuadoran environment for which it was punished this week with a $8bn (£5bn) fine. When it comes to aggressive legal tactics, vindictiveness, threats, pollution, intimidation, tax evasion and links with venal and repressive regimes, it is in a league of its own as its corporate lawyers bludgeon, bully and try to beat with the law any opposition it meets around the world.
Here’s a small taste of how the company works. Back in the late 1990s, it hired and transported the ruthless Nigerian military to remove a group of impoverished villagers from an company oil platform they had peacefully occupied in protest against pollution and the lack of jobs in the Niger Delta. Two villagers were killed and others were injured and then tortured by the soldiers. In 2009, the case ended up in San Francisco where a jury found Chevron not liable but then the company – whose turnover makes it bigger than 137 countries – tried to sue the villagers for its costs of $485,000. Even the judge remarked that the case was deeply mismatched. “The economic disparity between plaintiffs, who are Nigerian villagers, and defendants, international oil companies, cannot be more stark,” she said.
As a corporate citizen, the company is lousy. It is involved in polluting tar sands in Canada, massive coal mining operations in the US, and it is in constant battle with the authorities and communities over illegal gas flaring in Nigeria and Kazakhstan. It is also one of the world’s leading 10 lobbyists. It has been strongly criticised for – but has denied – human rights violations on three continents. But what it cannot dispute is that it has partnered and supported dictators and despots in Burma, Africa and Asia.
Its lawyers must be some of the busiest in the world. Court records show that in the past 20 years, the company has been made to pay around $2bn in fines and settlements to governments and communities for tax evasion, and environmental violations around the world.
The point being: Chevron goes into communities all across the world and exploits natural resources, polluting the communities and abusing human rights in the process, and then expects to get away with it. Unfortunately, in many cases the company does get away with it. And if the people Chevron has impacted dare speak up and demand clean up or compensation, Chevron goes after them ruthlessly.
Chevron is by no means alone amongst the Big Oil companies in its irresponsible business practices. That’s why it’s important to remember Chevron’s global impact and the larger issues it raises. I always say that the trial in Ecuador is not just about Ecuador and Chevron — it’s about the future of our global society and the future of life on this planet. Will we continue to let the wealthiest corporations poison our communities with impunity in their pursuit of ever-more-exorbitant profits, or will we demand accountability and equitable distribution of resources?
I know which one I choose. Ecuador needs to be the line in the sand. Enough is enough.
Can’t say it any better than that.