MONDAY, JANUARY 24, 2011
THE BLOG OF THE RAINFOREST ACTION NETWORK

The Countdown to a Verdict in Ecuador Has Begun

Chevron's oil in the Ecuadorean AmazonThe plaintiffs have submitted their final arguments — known as an “alegato” in Spanish — to the court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, citing the “overwhelming” evidence of Chevron’s culpability for oil pollution in the Ecuadorean Amazon and the impacts of that pollution on human health and the environment. The evidence was not entirely collected by the plaintiffs themselves, however. It wasn’t even entirely collected by the court’s independent investigator. Much of the evidence, in fact, comes from Chevron’s own records. It’s no wonder, therefore, that the company has tried to make this case about everything but the evidence. So far, Chevron’s tactics have included corrupting the Ecuadorean court system, attacking the plaintiffs’ US lawyer, and even compelling Joe Berlinger — the documentary filmmaker behind the movie Crude — to turn over his footage. But it’s all one grand distraction, designed to take the focus off of the hard evidence and the actual facts of the case. The reason for this strategy is simple: Chevron knows it will lose if the focus is on the hard evidence and the actual facts of the case. Here is a very concise summary of the evidence submitted by the plaintiffs in their alegato (read more at ChevronToxico.com):
  • Chevron treated the environment "recklessly" and deliberately disposed of billions of gallons of toxic waste into rivers and streams over the 26-year period that it operated a large oil concession in Ecuador's Amazon region. "These lax operational practices have had a devastating impact on the rainforest ecosystem and its inhabitants," according to the document.
  • Chevron dumped more than 16 billion gallons of chemical-laden "produced water" into streams and rivers over 70 years after the industry had stopped the practice in the United States due to its damaging environmental impacts.
  • Chevron built and then abandoned more than 900 toxic waste pits filled with oil drilling byproducts such as barium, heavy metals, chloride, and acid — all of which need extensive remediation.
  • Chevron polluted the air by flaring gas with no controls, spilled thousands of barrels of oil, had no spill response plan, and ordered the destruction of records documenting oil spills.
As the alegato states, the evidence clearly shows that Chevron is guilty: "Guilty of polluting the rainforest with toxic sludge from lucrative oil drilling operations, guilty of a shoddy and haphazard cleanup operation, guilty of letting toxic waste continue to devastate the rainforest and its inhabitants' lives, and perhaps worst of all, guilty of trying to cover it all up by destroying documents and making false accusations of fraud before courts in the U.S. and Ecuador." Chevron has had its chance to do the right thing and clean up Ecuador. The company blew that chance. Now it’s time for the courts to force Chevron to do the right thing. We’ll keep you updated as the lawsuit comes to a close and the verdict is announced. Rest assured there will be many opportunities for you to stand in solidarity with the people of Ecuador and demand justice. Sign up to get email updates from the Change Chevron campaign.

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