“Few things are more important than a company’s reputation with stakeholders. It represents the sum of all that we do – and reflects the value and trust that consumers, customers, employees, investors and communities place in our company, our brands and our people. We constantly strive to remain worthy of that trust…” says CEO Ken Powell. You're right about that, Mr. Powell - your company's reputation is everything, and it's massively at risk. Unfortunately for General Mills, over three hundred concerned cereal eaters across the U.S. and Canada took to the streets last week for a National Palm Oil Week of Action and distributed 20,000 spoof Cheerios postcards. Concerned citizens are raising awareness about General Mills’ role in rainforest destruction from California to Minnesota to Alberta, Canada: General Mills is definitely on the spot. In the world of Corporate Social Responsibility, the past two weeks have been an exciting time for companies like General Mills, receiving awards such as ‘Top Corporate Citizen,’ ranking 47th in the world’s 50 ‘Most Admired Companies’ and 29th on the ‘Diversity List.’ These awards recognize the company’s strong global reputation – at least according to Fortune Magazine and global business leaders. But what this small group of decision makers doesn't know is that millions of Indigenous peoples, endangered species and forests are at risk from palm oil expansion in Indonesia - thanks to General Mills. General Mills, a company recognized for its CSR record, refuses to have a conversation with RAN about their palm oil commitments because of our "antics." It makes us wonder if General Mills is really committed to “sustainability.” "General Mills strives to be one of the most socially responsible consumer food companies in the world, and we're proud to be named one of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens for 2010," said Ken Powell, chairman and CEO of General Mills. "Each step we take across our businesses, big or small, advances our mission of Nourishing Lives." Which lives, exactly, is he nourishing? The lives of the children in the U.S. eating rainforest destruction-tainted Cheerios? Or the lives of the millions of forest-dependent people forced off their land to make way for monoculture palm oil plantations that release vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and destroy the precious habitat of endangered species, like orangutans and Sumatran tigers? Will General Mills continue claiming that they support responsible palm oil while purchasing it from one of the worst palm oil supplier in the world – Cargill? RAN won’t quit campaigning until General Mills starts truly honoring their commitment to “Corporate Social Responsibility” by sourcing only environmentally and socially responsible palm oil. Until then, these awards mean nothing. Over six hundred people and counting have already signed up for another national week of action for the first week of April! We will be passing out thousands of spoof Lucky Charms postcards as one of the many General Mills brands that contain palm oil ingredients. Due to our combined efforts, more than 45 American companies have committed to using only environmentally and socially responsible palm oil. Guess who's not quite ready to make that same commitment? General Mills. Turns out Lucky Charms aren't so lucky for the local people, culture and biodiversity of Indonesia's lush tropical islands. When General Mills steps up and cancels their contract with Cargill, their performance will merit an award they are actually deserving of. Until then, anyone who uses the word 'responsible' in the same sentence as General Mills is misguided and misinformed.
Nestle, the world's largest food and beverage company, has become the latest major multinational to cancel their palm oil contract with Sinar Mas, one of Indonesia's largest conglomerates and a leading producer of both palm oil and wood pulp for paper and packaging products. A string of reports have shown that Sinar Mas is actively clear cutting Indonesia's forests, home to the endangered Orangutan, Sumatran Tiger, and Elephant, in violation of Indonesian law. Not only is Sinar Mas' palm oil dirty and dangerous, it is also illegal. [caption id="attachment_6162" align="alignnone" width="459" caption="Sinar Mas is clearing rainforests in Borneo without proper government approval"][/caption] With the world's major buyers of palm oil, including Uniliver, Kraft, Sainsbury and now Nestle cutting ties with Sinar Mas, Cargill's support of Sinar Mas' rainforest destruction and chain of illegalities has become all the more unacceptable. The world's CEOs, environmental groups, and local Indonesian communities all agree: Sinar Mas is a critical threat to the world's forests, forest peoples, and the climate. Those companies who buy from Sinar Mas have acted, and Sinar Mas is reeling from tens of millions of dollars of contract cancellations. [caption id="attachment_6161" align="alignnone" width="458" caption="Sinar Mas built this logging road in primary rainforest without government approval, violating Indonesian law. PT WKS, Riau, Sumatra"][/caption] Yet Cargill continues to stand by Sinar Mas. The Minnesota based agribusiness giant sells Sinar Mas palm oil worldwide, turning a profit as Sinar Mas illegally burns carbon rich peat forests and forcibly evicts local communities to make way for palm oil. Cargill has repeatedly refused to disclose the size of their palm oil contracts with Sinar Mas subsidiaries and affiliates, contracts insiders believe Cargill pays Sinar Mas tens of millions of dollars a year for their dangerous palm oil. Although Kraft and Nestle have canceled their contracts with Sinar Mas, these companies are still not free of Sinar Mas' palm oil in their global supply chains. Both Kraft and Nestle are large buyers of palm oil from Cargill, and Cargill continues to supply palm oil to the global market from Sinar Mas. Until Cargill cancels with Sinar Mas, Nestle, Kraft, and USA companies such as General Mills, will be forced to support Sinar Mas' untenable palm oil operations in Indonesia. Business as usual has become unacceptable for buyers of palm oil. The top management of Unliver, Kraft, and Nestle have all acknowledged that systemic change is needed in Indonesia’s palm oil sector. But Cargill, with their business based on unsustainable clearing and burning of rainforests, refuses to act on the demands of their customers. Over the past months, Cargill has repeatedly told RAN that they will change their ways if they ‘hear it from our customers’. Well, Cargill’s customers have spoken, and Cargill management must disassociate themselves with Sinar Mas, other worst-of-the-worst palm oil producers, and put an immediate end to deforestation at their own palm oil plantations, or risk being the next palm oil supplier that Uniliver, Kraft, and Nestle cut all ties with. David Gilbert is a forest program research associate with RAN. He has lived and worked in the forests of the Amazon and Indonesia. He has a special focus on Indigenous rights and tropical forest conservation. He can be reached at davidgilbert AT ran DOT org
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="302" caption="Emergildo Criollo Indigenous Ecuador leader of the Cofan people."][/caption] This past week, Emergildo Criollo, an Indigenous Ecuador leader of the Cofan people traveled 3,000 miles from his home in the Amazon rainforest to California. He came to California to share his story and ask for support in getting one of the world’s largest oil companies (Chevron) to clean up one of the largest environmental disasters in history. For a whirlwind few days this week, Emergildo shared his story with Chevron employees, California Senators and Assemblymembers, journalists, activists, and Chevron’s new CEO John Watson’s Lafayette neighbors. Here is the story that Emergildo told (translated from Spanish): “I want to start telling my story from when I was a child. In 1964, I was 6 and living by the river. As was the tradition of my people we would migrate from area to area to hunt. We were in (what is now called Lago Agrio) hunting. At one point we heard this really loud noise coming from the sky. We thought it was a large bird (it was a helicopter). We were scared and hid. The helicopter landed and we were very scared. They landed and started cutting down trees. They cut down about 10 hectares of trees. Texaco (now Chevron) set up a worker camp. Me and my father tried to sell our jewelry. I was wearing my traditional dress. The workers came up and lifted my dress. I was so embarrassed. They lifted it because they didn’t know if I was a little girl or boy. It was so humiliating. A few months passed and we saw great waves of oil floating down the river. We had to part the sheets of oil to get the water. As we walked we waded through oil. We tried to get it off our skin but we couldn’t get clean. After a bit we said we can’t live here anymore and we had to relocate. About a decade passed. I met my wife. She got pregnant and was drinking water that we didn’t know was contaminated. My son was born but didn’t grow well. He died at just 6 months. I took him to a hospital in Quito but they couldn’t do anything. Then our second son was born. I would take him to the river to swim. One day at the river he drank the water and started vomiting and vomiting. He soon started vomiting blood. Within 24 hours, he was dead too. After seeing this I realized we couldn’t drink from the river. We started digging wells and looking for subterranean water which we hoped was cleaner. After being exposed my wife became ill. She had uterine cancer and had to have a hysterectomy. She was never the same after. Always in pain. It wasn’t just my family that was affected by the polluted water. And not just my people, the Cofan, but all the other Indigenous communities and campesinos in the area. Many, many of our brothers and sisters have died as well. Before Texaco (now Chevron) arrived we lived well. We had plenty of food. Plenty of animals and plenty of medicinal plants. Everything has changed. All of our customs have been transformed since the company’s arrival. If you can imagine, we have lost our traditional healers and medicine with Texaco’ (now Chevron) arrival. The irony is we now have so many new illnesses and we have lost our abilities to heal. There were changes for the women as well. The women would traditionally get firewood by the river. Because of oil spills, the wood was drenched in thick, black oil. The oil coated their bodies and polluted the food they cooked over the wood. The women suffered as well. The Cofan women never had miscarriages before. With Texaco (now Chevron) and the contamination there were suddenly many miscarriages and children born with abnormalities. There has been so much pain for our women. This continues today. People are dying of cancer and oil-related illness. They just left so many open oil pits and never cleaned up. This is why we started the lawsuit. That’s what our lawsuit is about. To get Chevron to take responsibility. They need to see the supposed clean-up was not a proper clean-up. They just sprinkled dirt on the oil pits, covered them up. But if you dig even 50 cm it is thick with oil. This is not a proper clean up. The oil is still there.” These open waste pits had no protective liner. The oil would seep into the the ground, and then into the smaller rivers, and the larger rivers. The contamination affects so many people.” Emergildo’s story is the story of thousands of people in the region. What will it take for Chevron to do the right thing, clean up Ecuador, and put an end to the suffering?
Cross-posted at http://itsgettinghotinhere.org/2010/03/05/emergildos-story/
Last night, Emergildo Criollo, the Indigenous leader from Ecuador, met with California legislators and asked for their support in the 16+ year campaign to demand Chevron remediate massive oil contamination affecting over 30,000 people. Along with supporters from Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network, Emergildo spoke with lawmakers about the impact of California’s largest company in Ecuador, and what they can do to support his community’s call for environmental cleanup and action to prevent such tragedies in the future. Senator Fran Pavley and Assemblymember Jared Huffman hosted the reception in Sacramento entitled, “From Ecuador to California: California’s largest corporation, one of the world’s worst oil related disasters, and what California’s legislators can do.” Despite the pouring rain, the reception was packed with Senators, Assemblymembers, and their staff. Lawmakers in attendance included Senator Fran Pavley, Senator Loni Hancock, Assemblyman Manny Perez, Assemblyman Paul Fong, Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, and Assemblyman Jared Huffman. These key leaders from both the Environmental and Latino Caucuses not only listened to Emergildo’s story, but spoke of their desire to support the people of Ecuador who are suffering and dying because of Chevron’s operations. Assemblymember Jared Huffmand spoke of the need “to remedy a very serious environmental and human tragedy.” At the reception, Emergildo shared his story. He told the lawmakers about how he was only 6 years old when Chevron (then Texaco) began oil drilling in his community. He spoke of how his family was forced to relocate because of the contamination. About he had to part centimeters of oil off of the river to drink the water. About how he has lost two sons and nursed a wife through uterine cancer because of the contamination. His family drank, bathed, and fished in water that was poisoned by oil dumping. After telling his story, Emergilod asked all of the Assemblymembers and Senators for their help and invited them to visit his home and see for themselves the devastation Chevron’s behavior has caused. Senator Loni Hancock, from the Contra Costa district where Chevron is headquartered, said she “would like to come and visit. This is an international issue and an issue here as well.” Assemblymember Manny Perez had a heartfelt exchange with Emergildo in Spanish and lawmaker after lawmaker stood up and said they wanted to learn more and to see what action they could take. We are excited about the possibilities moving forward and look forward to working closely with California’s legislators to make sure California’s largest corporation is held responsible for cleaning up one of the largest environmental disasters of all time. Learn more at www.ChangeChevron.org.
Today more than 170 people rallied outside of the Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC’s) Annual General Shareholder meeting (AGM) in Toronto after a series of creative non-violent actions all morning. Inside, First Nations Chiefs and community representatives from four different Nations demanded RBC phase out of its Tar Sands financing and to recognize the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent for Indigenous communities. Afterward, Indigenous leaders lead the crowd in a march to rally outside both RBC Headquarters buildings. Other cities across Canada supported the First Nations voices inside the AGM as well with solidarity actions from (click on a city for pictures) London, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Victoria and more. Check out photos from those and our events in Toronto. And see some preliminary media coverage from the Wall Street Journal and Yahoo. See beautiful photos from Allan Lissner here. Since 2007 RBC has backed more than $16.7 billion (USD) in loans to companies operating in the tar sands—more than any other bank. Called, ‘the most destructive project on Earth,’ Alberta’s tar sands projects will eventually transform a Boreal forest the size of England into an industrial sacrifice zone complete with lakes full of toxic waste and man-made volcanoes spewing out clouds of global warming emissions. Outside the shareholder meeting school children, bank customers of every age, First Nations community representatives joined Rainforest Action Network, Indigenous Environmental Network, No One Is Illegal, and Council of Canadians made their outrage at RBC’s investments heard – to the thumping beats of street Samba band, the crowd shouted “Cultural Genocide: who do we thank? Dirty investments from Royal Bank!” Inside the shareholder meeting, Chief Al Lameman of Beaver Lake First Nation, Alberta,Vice Chief Terry Teegee of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council of BC, Hereditary Chief Warner Naziel of the Wet'suwe'ten First Nation of BC, and Gitz Crazyboy of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation addressed RBC CEO Gordon Nixon directly about the way tar sands extraction projects have jeopardized their health and their rights. Downstream communities have experienced polluted water, water reductions in rivers and aquifers, declines in wildlife populations such as moose and muskrat, and significant declines in fish populations. Tar sands has all but destroyed the traditional livelihood of First Nations in the northern Athabasca watershed. RBC is clearly feeling the public pressure over their tar sands financing. They spent half their shareholder meeting addressing the issue. Recently, the bank convened a high-level meeting with more than a dozen international banks for a “day of learning” about the reputational risks associated with the tar sands. In addition, according to information the bank provided to RAN during a February meeting in San Francisco, RBC is currently evaluating new lending criteria that would apply to the oil and gas sector, in particular to the tar sands. However, the bank has been reticent to include Free, Prior and Informed Consent in its policy, which would ensure that First Nations communities are respected in lending practices. [youtube nRE8aStTq5Y] “RBC’s significant financial relationship with companies pursuing tar sands development activities within our traditional territory and without consent warrants close attention,” said Chief Al Lameman of Beaver Lake First Nation. “RBC should update their policies to include a recognition of Free, Prior and Informed consent for Indigenous communities; this globally recognized concept was adopted by TD Bank Financial Group in 2007 and is endorsed by Indigenous communities across the political spectrum.” [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="211" caption="activists disrupt the RBC shareholder meeting inside"][/caption] Internationally, tar sands financing is gaining tremendous negative attention. An increasingly vocal group of shareholders and environmentalists turned last month’s BP, Shell and Royal Bank of Scotland annual meetings into a referendum on the oil extraction projects. Today’s marches, rallies, and actions were a triumphant roar of grassroots power from across the spectrum. The day concluded with an apt chant to RBC Headquarters, foreshadowing the growing flame of tar sands resistance across Canada, “Native communities under attack! We won’t stop until you act!”
Cargill Inc., the world’s largest agribusiness company, has announced the sale of their palm oil plantations in the remote tropical nation of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Cargill owns mills and plantations in Indonesia, Malaysia, and until today, PNG, and trades palm oil globally produced by at least 25 additional palm oil producers in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Cargill's oil palm operations in PNG destroyed rainforests - Photo by Greenpeace PNGJust three months ago RAN released a case study, based on original field research carried out by RAN and the International Accountability Project, on Cargill’s palm oil operations in PNG. Commodity Colonialism reports that serious environmental and social issues threaten the sustainability of Cargill’s plantations there, with a special focus on the dangers of converting once independent and self sufficient Papuan farmers into indebted laborers through Cargill’s use of share cropping contracts. After five years of operations in PNG, Cargill is turning their palm oil plantations over to New Britain Palm Oil, along with a range of unfilled commitments to the people and government of PNG. It is unclear what will become of the thousands of indebted Papuans who remain bound under contract to exclusively produced oil palm for Cargill at prices set by the company, of the polluted rivers and watersheds Cargill is leaving behind, or the roads Cargill made a commitment to build and maintain in the rugged interior. Cargill did not release any official comments but insiders point to the strong criticisms of Cargill’s unsustainable palm oil production by customers and the media as a likely reason Cargill decided to exit the country. Recent contract cancellations against the Indonesian palm oil producer Sinar Mas, Cargill’s single-largest palm oil supplier, have led to questions of Cargill’s support of, and profits from, rainforest destruction in neighboring Indonesia.
Cargill's Oro Bay palm oil plantation - Photo by Greenpeace PNGBack in PNG, local communities have spoken out on the damaging effects palm oil production has on the farms, forests, and rivers they have depended on for tens of thousands of years for survival. The lack of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) in Cargill’s sharecropping agreements, the lack of training to use dangerous pesticides, and the use of child labor are also among the most serious concerns expressed by locals living at Cargill’s three PNG plantations. Cargill’s entrance into palm oil production in PNG gave rise to concerns that the company would use its financial and political influence to undermine the strict protections the constitution of PNG provides to community forests and farms through the recognition of communities’ customary land rights. It appears that these strict constitutional protections, which prevented Cargill from rapidly expanding it’s PNG plantations, played a significant role in Cargill’s decision to stop producing oil palm in PNG. A World Bank social impact report that noted increases of debt, prostitution, alcohol, and violence at PNG’s palm oil plantation communities, providing additional reasons for Cargill to disassociate themselves with PNG palm oil.
New Britain Palm Oil's Togulo palm oil operations in PNG replaced natural rainforest in 1979. - Photo by Greenpeace PNGNew Britain Palm Oil (NBPO) is a long-time producer of palm oil in Papua New Guinea with a reputation for respecting local communities and a cautious approach to oil palm expansion, but NBPO’s plans for Cargill’s holdings are unknown. One this is for certain though, NBPO will now have to clean up Cargill’s palm oil mess in PNG. David Gilbert is a Research Fellow at RAN. He has worked in the tropical forests of the Amazon and Indonesia, with a special focus on forest conservation and indigenous rights. He can be reached at email@example.com
After a year of campaigning, this afternoon RBC and RAN finally sat opposite the same table to talk tar sands (here's the background for those just tuning in). In RBC's corner was COO Barbara Stymiest joined by Sandra Odendahl and Shari Austin. We correspond with Sandra and Shari pretty regularly. Barbara was a new contact. She's one of nine members of RBC's "Group Executive" responsible for setting the overall strategic direction of the bank. Weighing in for RAN was Acting Executive Director Rebecca Tarbotton joined by Eriel Deranger and me. Our aim was to learn whether RBC is ready to begin putting its money where its mouth is on Indigenous rights, water quality and climate change by scaling back its financing in Canada's tar sands. The resounding conclusion? Maybe a little. Maybe. Enough to scale back the campaign? Read the play-by-play after the jump. Indigenous rights took much of the agenda . After a December letter from CEO Gord Nixon cited "little room for agreement" on Free, Prior Informed Consent, we were pleased to see the bank reconsidering its position. We heard about a recent trip by Stymiest and Odendahl to visit with three First Nations in the tar sands region. We heard about the bank's keen interest in promoting dialogue between industry and First Nations and government. And while the bank appeared ready to strengthen its lending standards on Indigenous rights, recognizing "Consent" continues to be a deal-breaker for RBC. Progress? Maybe a little, but not the standard already recognized by Toronto Dominion Bank--not to mention 143 countries (Canada, the US and New Zealand excepted) signed onto the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Next on the agenda was environmental lending standards in the tar sands. On the table was draft language for a new Environmental Risk Policy. The document would replace RBC's "outdated" policy that guides bank decisions on lending to companies operating in high-impact industries like the tar sands. The proprietary policy would be subject to internal audits and would prohibit lending to clients operating in ways "which adversely impact, in a non-reversible manner, critical natural habitats or freshwater resources." Good language. In fact, it's the same language that we proposed to the bank one year ago now on the books at French bank Dexia. Asked whether the policy would change RBC's business in the sector, Stymiest said that we "should see change over time as new credits are vetted according to the policy." Progress? Maybe. The proposal still needs to be vetted internally with lenders, risk managers and external advisors. We're looking forward to the details. With virtually no time to spare, we took up climate change. The RBC team characterized measuring the "financed emissions" embedded in the bank's lending portfolio as impractical, but assured us that the bank is committed to promoting renewable energy. Nice, but not on par with Unicredit Bank's commitment to do just that. So are these commitments enough to cool the campaign? Should the 150+ people planning to descend on RBC's shareholder meeting next month bring champagne instead of chants. We want to hear from you in the comments.
On Monday, February 15, a dozen activists and several kids with Rainforest Action Network's rockin' Twin Cities chapter visited General Mills' Golden Valley Headquarters with a very special Valentine's Day delivery! General Mills buys palm oil from Cargill Incorporated, the largest importer of palm oil in the United States. Kids and youth from around the country made over 100 valentines for General Mills reminding the cereal giant to have some LOVE for the world's rainforests and stop doing business with Cargill, one of the world's worst drivers of deforestation and displacement of Indigenous peoples in Indonesia. Kids want to enjoy General Mills cereals like Cheerios and Lucky Charms without killing rainforests. They shouldn't have to choose. While General Mills did their best to 'Betty Crocker' the situation with cupcakes, juice, and their own schmoozer, RAN-Twin Cities chapter members weren't fooled. General Mills claims they are doing everything right, but we know that's not the case. For more info, check out our posts about rainforest destruction caused by Cargill, General Mills' palm oil supplier. A spokesperson was present to go over General Mills stance on palm oil, but our chapter stayed true to the sentiments expressed in the Valentines we delivered from kids around the country: "General Mills: Break Your Contract with Cargill, Not Our ♥'s!" Watch our quick new commercial about General Mills' role in rainforest destruction and join the call-in to General Mills today! Join thousands of other activists and make the call now. Way to go Twin Cities!
[caption id="attachment_5715" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Photo courtesy of Kelsey Chapman"][/caption] On Saturday February 13th at 3:00 p.m. dozens rallied outside of RBC’s main branch in Vancouver (1025 West Georgia St) to protest the Olympic sponsor’s record as the top financier of the Alberta tar sands, an affront to Indigenous rights and the nation’s fastest growing source of water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. This rally was coordinated with the combined efforts of the Rainforest Action Network, Council of Canadians and the Indigenous Environmental Network. The protest is the latest in a yearlong campaign to convince RBC to meet industry-best environmental and social standards. Participants view RBC’s efforts to enhance its reputation through its $110 million (CAD) sponsorship of the Olympic games as incompatible with its significant financial support of Canada’s most polluting industry. According to Bloomberg, RBC has led underwriting for over $16.9 billion (USD) in lending to companies operating in the tar sands since 2007—more than any other bank around the globe. [caption id="attachment_5712" align="alignright" width="175" caption="Photo courtesy of Kelsey Chapman"][/caption] Representatives from several First Nations impacted by tar sands developments led the rally. Speakers included First Nations from the Cold Lake Region, Lubicon Cree First Nation, Wetsuweten First Nation, and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations. The representatives brought forward stories of the impacts of the tar sands and tar sands infrastructure on Indigenous rights, treaties and livelihoods. In addition, we were very grateful for special speakers including Macdonald Stainsby of Oilsands Truth and Clayton Thomas Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network. The toxic burden of the tar sand’s disproportionally impacts Canada’s First Nation’s communities, yet RBC refuses to recognize international standards for Indigenous rights. By bankrolling the tar sands, RBC is mortgaging Canada’s clean energy future and jeopardizing the health of all Canadians. “The Royal Bank of Canada is being put on notice, our network will not stop until RBC adopts a socially responsible banking policy that does not include investments in dirty fossil fuels like Canada’s tar sands,” says Clayton Thomas-Muller, Indigenous Tar Sands Campaigner of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “RBC must respect Indigenous Peoples right to Free, Prior and Informed consent on all investments impacting our lands, culture and rights.” [caption id="attachment_5712" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="Photo courtesy of Kelsey Chapman"][/caption] "The Royal Bank of Canada, a National Partner for the 2010 Games, is directly involved in the Alberta tar sands, one of the most environmentally destructive projects in the world," says Council of Canadians Prairies Regional Organizer Scott Harris. "The Royal Bank is a major financier of tar sands projects and is also a sponsor of the Torch Relay. Ironically, their ad campaigns for the relay ask individuals to make a "green pledge" by volunteering to carry the torch." The Council of Canadians is campaigning for a tar sands free future, which includes no new approvals in the tar sands and a halt to any development infrastructure designed to increase the capacity of tar sands exploitation." [caption id="attachment_5716" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="photo courtesy of Kelsey Chapman"][/caption] Mining oil from tar sands requires churning up huge tracts of ancient boreal forest and polluting so much clean water with poisonous chemicals that the resulting waste ponds can be seen from outer space. The health impacts to Alberta’s First Nation communities are severe, with cancer rates up in some communities as much as 400 times its usual frequency. In addition, communities living near oil refineries face increased air and water pollution from tar sands oil, which contains 11 times more sulfur and nickel and five times more lead than conventional oil. For more information on RBC and the tar sands, visit: http://www.ran.org/tarsands See how RBC's tar sands financing stacks up to other banks in our earlier post: "Banks Ranked and Spanked on Tar Sands"
In today’s “Chevron is a dirty liar” news: The oil giant pulls another dirty PR trick and lies to avoid paying $27 billion to clean up their toxic legacy in Ecuador. For years, the people of Ecuador have been trying to get Chevron to clean up the billions of gallons of toxic waste and unlined oil pits that were left to poison their water, their land, and their community. Chevron has used dirty tricks and tactics every step of the way during the decades-long legal challenge to force them to clean up Ecuador. They’ve hired dirty PR, legal, and lobby teams; forced the case to move around the globe; fabricated a story to discredit the original Judge; and filed endless motions that are eventually denied but nevertheless succeed in further draining the plaintiff’s resources and delaying a judgment. As Steven Donziger, a legal advisor for the 30,000 Ecuadoreans who are suffering because of the 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste Chevron refuses to clean up, says: “Chevron is again trying to strong-arm the court by misrepresenting facts. This is part of an underhanded attempt to derail a trial Chevron is losing based on the voluminous scientific evidence.” Today’s trick? To claim in a press release to their investors it had “newly discovered” evidence that the court-appointed Special Master who conducted a damages assessment, Richard Cabrera, owns a remediation company in Ecuador that stands to benefit from a clean-up should the plaintiffs win the case. The filing is the 29th official motion Chevron has made to the court to disqualify Cabrera but the court has never accepted Chevron’s arguments. Carbera, working with a team of 14 scientists, found that Chevron could be responsible for $27.3 billion in damages. Pablo Fajardo, who grew up in the contaminated region and is now the lead Ecuadorian lawyer in the case, took a moment to dispel some of today’s Chevron lies and half-truths: * Cabrera disclosed to the court that he owned a clean-up company beforehis appointment as Special Master. This fact was properly cited by the court as one of the reasons he was qualified to do the damages assessment. * Chevron thought so highly of Cabrera’s qualifications that it accepted him as a court-appointed expert in an earlier part of the case and paid his fees as required by court rules. * The fact Cabrera’s company is qualified to bid on clean-up contracts offered by Ecuador’s state-owned oil company is irrelevant. That company, Petroecuador, is not a party to the case against Chevron and would have no role in any eventual cleanup. * Cabrera by virtue of his role in the case would be barred from having a role in a future clean-up. To Chevron, this is all about money and pulling out every dirty trick in the book to avoid taking responsibility for the devastation they have caused. For the people of Ecuador this is about so much more than money. This is about the children who are getting sick and dying because they are forced to drink poisoned water. This is about justice for the 1,400 people who have died of cancer. And for the families who were unfortunate enough to build their homes on dangerous oil pits that Chevron (then Texco) lied about properly cleaning up. This is about their right to drink clean water. A right that Chevron denies with every lie and legal trick. Chevron- when will the lies end and the clean up begin? Visit www.ChangeChevron.org to become part of the movement to change Chevron. Cross-posted from www.ItsGettingHotinHere.org.