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Chevron Challenged for Environmental Crimes at Golf Tournament

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Groups Demand Company Follow Court Orders and Clean up Toxic Mess in Ecuador
Saturday, December 3, 2011

CONTACT
Kerul Dyer, 707.834.3358
Caroline Bennett,  510.520.9390

Thousand Oaks, CA – Today Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and Amazon Watch challenged Chevron Chairman and CEO John S. Watson with a high-flying demand that he clean up his company’s toxic mess in the Ecuadorian Amazon. An airplane banner will circle overhead for three hours on two days of the Chevron World Challenge golf tournament, calling on the executive to remediate the environmental disaster in Ecuador after three decades of contaminating the country's rainforest in reckless pursuit of profit.

RAN and Amazon Watch sponsored this message to Chevron, demanding that the company abide by the $18 billion judgment resulting from one of the world's largest oil-related disasters in history. In a historic ruling this fall, a group of Ecuadorian indigenous and farming communities prevailed over Chevron in both U.S. and Ecuadorian courts in their legal efforts to hold the company accountable for human rights violations and the ongoing environmental crisis it caused in Ecuador. CEO Watson and other Chevron executives routinely defy court orders by stating publicly that they will never pay.

“Chevron has spent the last 18 years waging unprecedented public relations and legal campaigns to avoid dealing with the environmental and public health catastrophe it left in the Amazon rainforest,” said Ginger Cassady, Director of RAN’s Change Chevron campaign. “Today we’re challenging Chevron to clean more than their public image and repair the toxic legacy left in Ecuador.”

Today’s banner action comes on the heels of damning statements from another group of Latin Americans: government and regulatory officials in Brazil. After Chevron spilled an estimated 110,000 gallons of pure crude into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the state of Rio, Brazilian officials were outraged by Chevron executives’ response. At first Chevron lied about the origin of the spill, then they low-balled the number of barrels spilled into the ocean and told regulators the damage was contained when it wasn’t. Brazilian officials are threatening fines up to $145 million, as well as possible prison terms, for what they describe as Chevron’s "environmental crimes."

“From Ecuador to Brazil, Chevron has cemented its position in South America as an ambassador of arrogance and environmental racism,” said Mitch Anderson, Corporate Campaigns Director at Amazon Watch. “This is a company that consistently flouts the rule of law.”

The Brazil spill is the most recent embarrassment for Watson during his tenure as Chevron’s chief executive. The Ecuador disaster has generated negative publicity for 18 years and cost Chevron hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees.

The matter is of special concern to Watson personally because he is largely responsible for the $18 billion liability Chevron now faces.

In 1993, the Ecuadorians sued Texaco for massive oil contamination in a U.S. court. In 2001, Chevron purchased Texaco. Watson, before becoming CEO, headed up the due diligence team on Texaco's assets and liabilities and recommended the acquisition, even with the lawsuit hanging over its head. Later Chevron convinced the U.S. court to transfer the case to Ecuador, the jurisdiction Chevron preferred because the oil giant testified it could receive a fairer hearing there than in the U.S.

In 2003, the Ecuadorians re-filed their case, but after overwhelming evidence began to prove Texaco intentionally contaminated the environment, Chevron charged Ecuadorian judges with fraud and recently tried to convince U.S. courts to block the resulting $18 billion judgment. A U.S. federal appeals court recently threw out Watson's frantic, last minute efforts to save his company.

Both Chevron and the Ecuadorians have appealed the $18 billion judgment in Ecuador. The Ecuadorians are arguing for a higher damage award. If the judgment is upheld by the country's appeals court, the Ecuadorians will prepare to seize Chevron's assets in other countries, possibly in Latin America, because the company has sold all of them in Ecuador.

 

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Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org

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