Chevron oil polluting the Ecuadorian Amazon

From Alternet in the USA:

Crude‘: The Film Chevron Doesn’t Want You to See

By Han Shan, AlterNet. Posted August 26, 2009.

The new film exposes an environmental tragedy experts call the “Amazon Chernobyl,” and believe is the worst case of oil-related contamination ever.

American oil giant Chevron is now the 5th largest company on the planet. But I doubt Chevron executives have had much time to savor their ‘Masters of the Universe’ status lately. Instead, I imagine them working overtime with their internal public relations team and mercenary army of PR spinmasters, lobbyists, and sponsored bloggers they’ve brought on to fight what looks more and more like a losing battle. What’s got them burning the midnight oil?

Two weeks from today, a powerful new documentary film is opening in New York, and then playing in select theaters across the country. Called CRUDE, the film tells a shocking story that Chevron does not want the world to know.

Three years in the making by acclaimed filmmaker Joe Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper, Paradise Lost, and Metallica: Some Kind of Monster), CRUDE chronicles the epic legal battle to hold Chevron accountable for its systematic contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon — an environmental tragedy experts call the “Amazon Chernobyl“, and believe is the worst case of oil-related contamination on Earth.

While drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon from 1964 to 1990, Texaco, now Chevron, deliberately dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater, spilled roughly 17 million gallons of crude oil, and left hazardous waste in hundreds of open pits dug out of the forest floor. The company operated using substandard practices that were obsolete in order to increase its profit margin by $3 per barrel of crude. Of course, the local people and ecosystems paid the price instead, but they’re fighting back.

Centering on a landmark lawsuit filed by the indigenous people and campesinos who continue to suffer a severe public health crisis caused by Chevron’s contamination, CRUDE is a high-stakes David vs. Goliath legal drama with 30,000 Amazon rainforest dwellers facing down the San Ramon, California-based oil behemoth.

Amazon Watch‘s Clean Up Ecuador Campaign – featured in the film – is leading grassroots efforts to promote the theatrical release, enlisting human rights and environmental allies across the U.S. in an outreach and word-of-mouth marketing campaign. Numerous organizations have pledged support and committed to concrete efforts to build the profile of this must-see film, including Rainforest Action Network, Oxfam USA, WITNESS, EarthRights International, Human Rights Watch, and Global Green, to name just a few.

CRUDE is not a simplistic piece of agit-prop. Filmmaker Joe Berlinger shows all sides of this monumental case and the stories and people behind it. Chevron is given plenty of opportunity to share its perspective. Unfortunately for them, in the end, truth does appear to pick a side and it’s not Chevron’s. …

Ultimately, the film gives us a glimpse of the beauty and mystery of the Amazon and its indigenous cultures, and puts a human face on the devastation left there by three decades of oil operations. But it does a lot more. Among other things, it also tells the story of what it takes to go up against one of the most powerful companies on the planet.

See also here.

Court Orders Documentary Filmmaker to Hand Ecuador Footage to Chevron: here.

Michael Winship, Truthout: “Joe Berlinger’s back is against the wall. Last week the independent filmmaker, already facing crushing debt from legal bills, was dealt a major blow in his continuing fight against the third-largest company in America: Chevron. It’s a battle that epitomizes the hardship individuals face trying to challenge corporate giants that punch back with a knockout force of high-powered lawyers and unlimited cash. What’s more, Berlinger’s struggle continues to raise serious First Amendment issues and – as we approach the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision – throws yet another spotlight on the increasingly pro-business stance of the nation’s legal system”: here.

How a new forest road can destroy wildlife: here.

Hundreds of demonstrators blocked Ecuador‘s Pan American highway on Monday in protest at a new mining law they claimed would lead to the privatisation of natural resources.

Will Ecuador’s plan to raise money for not drilling oil in the Amazon succeed? Here.

QUITO, Apr 10, 2010 (IPS) – Representatives of Ecuador’s ombudsman’s office and environmental groups are visiting the Yasuni National Park on Saturday, home to some of the world’s last indigenous people still living in voluntary isolation, in order to verify reports of illegal activity by oil companies: here.

Ecuador’s President seeks a global boycott of Chevron over its refusal to pay up on a £11.8 billion judgement against it: here.

Bolivia: Morales Annuls Forest Exploitation Concessions, Turns Land Over to Indians: here.

Environmental activists expose Chevron’s crimes: here.

24 thoughts on “Chevron oil polluting the Ecuadorian Amazon

  1. U.S. finds water polluted near gas-drilling sites

    Thu Aug 27, 2009 12:56pm EDT

    By Jon Hurdle

    PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – U.S. government scientists have for the first time found chemical contaminants in drinking water wells near natural gas drilling operations, fueling concern that a gas-extraction technique is endangering the health of people who live close to drilling rigs.

    The Environmental Protection Agency found chemicals that researchers say may cause illnesses including cancer, kidney failure, anemia and fertility problems in water from 11 of 39 wells tested around the Wyoming town of Pavillion in March and May this year.

    The report issued this month did not reach a conclusion about the cause of contamination but named gas drilling as a potential source.

    Gas drilling companies say the gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is safe, but opponents contend it pollutes groundwater with dangerous substances.

    Evidence of a link between gas drilling and water contamination would set back development of a clean-burning fuel promoted by the Obama administration as crucial to the future of U.S. energy production.

    Some experts believe the United States holds more than 100 years worth of natural gas reserves. The new findings may raise questions about the process companies such as EnCana Corp, Halliburton Co and others commonly use to pump the gas from deep geological formations. Encana, Canada’s biggest energy company, is drilling in Pavillion.

    “There may be an indication of groundwater contamination by oil and gas activities,” said the 44-page report, which received little public attention when released on August 11. “Many activities in gas well drilling (and) hydraulic fracturing … involve injecting water and other fluids into the well and have the potential to create cross-contamination of aquifers.”

    Among the contaminants found in some of the wells was 2-butoyethanol, or 2-BE, a solvent used in natural gas extraction, which researchers say causes the breakdown of red blood cells, leading to blood in the urine and feces, and can damage the kidneys, liver, spleen and bone marrow.

    Greg Oberley, an EPA scientist who has been testing the water samples, said the agency did not set out to prove that hydraulic fracturing caused groundwater contamination, but was responding to complaints from local residents that their well water had become discolored or foul-smelling or tasted bad.

    The investigation was the EPA’s first in response to claims that gas drilling is polluting water supplies, he said. Testing will continue.


    While the EPA team has not determined how the chemicals got into the water, many are associated with gas drilling, Oberley said in a telephone interview.

    “The preponderance of those compounds in the area would be attributable to the oil and gas industry,” he said.

    In hydraulic fracturing, energy companies inject a mixture of water, sand and chemicals a mile or more underground at high pressure, causing rock to fracture and release natural gas.

    Drillers such as EnCana are not required to disclose the chemicals they use because of an exemption to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, granted to the oil and gas industry in 2005.

    In the U.S. Congress, concern about the safety of fracking led to the introduction in June this year of a bill that would require disclosure of fracking chemicals.

    Industry representatives say fracking chemicals are heavily diluted and are injected thousands of feet below drinking-water aquifers through steel and concrete shafts that prevent the escape of toxic substances into water supplies.

    Randy Teeuwen, a spokesman for EnCana, said the substances found by the EPA had been “tentatively identified.” He said many were naturally occurring and some are commonly found in household products and agricultural degreasers.

    He said EnCana was working with the agency to identify possible sources of the contamination. “One of those sources could be oil and gas development,” Teeuwen said.

    Teeuwen said EnCana, which operates 248 wells in the area, stopped using 2-BE in spring 2009 because of concerns about its health effects.

    “It’s a banned substance as far as EnCana is concerned,” Teeuwen said.

    John Fenton, a farmer in Pavillion, a rural community of about 150 people, said residents blame gas drilling for a range of illnesses including rare cancers, miscarriages and nervous system disorders.

    Families with contaminated water wells have been advised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not to drink the water, which in some cases was black and oily, with a petroleum-like sheen, and a smell of gas, Fenton said.

    “The stress is incredible,” Fenton told Reuters. “People have built their lives and businesses here. What’s it all worth now?”

    (Editing by Daniel Trotta and Mohammad Zargham)


  2. Is Chevron scared of “Crude” the movie?

    Wed Sep 9, 2009 8:34pm EDT

    Chevron taken to task in “Crude” documentary
    09 Sep 2009

    By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Is oil giant Chevron afraid of a movie?

    One of the stars of “Crude,” a documentary about a $27 billion environmental lawsuit filed against the company on behalf of residents of Ecuador’s Amazon, certainly thinks so. A spokesman for Chevron vehemently denies it.

    The film’s New York opening on Wednesday is the latest twist in a class action case that began 16 years ago, which argues that Chevron should compensate some 30,000 Ecuadoreans who live near waste pits left by oil exploration going back to the 1960s.

    “Crude” shows villagers living by oil-slicked streams, washing clothes in contaminated water. One scene shows a newborn with head-to-toe skin rashes; others offer interviews with Ecuadoreans who contend those who use the water or live near it are prone to cancer, birth defects and other ailments.

    The film is absorbing, in large part due to one of the personalities with the most screen time: Trudie Styler, who with her husband Sting founded the Rainforest Foundation.

    Styler visited the affected area in Ecuador and her group donated rain-collection barrels so villagers can have clean water. She praised the film for its environmental message and vividly recalled the stench in the area.

    “Before you’re smelling things, your eyes start to prick and to have a burning sensation and the closer you get to … these contaminated areas where people are being forced to live, your nostrils fill up … your saliva gets the taste of petroleum in it as well … and then 20 minutes later you’re getting this horrible headache,” Styler told Reuters.


    Chevron denies responsibility for the contamination and stepped up a media campaign last week, offering videotapes that the company said show the Ecuadorean judge in the case was involved in a bribery scheme.

    The judge recused himself from the case but said he did nothing wrong, and the Washington D.C.-based Amazon Defense Coalition that supports the plaintiffs said the video shows the judge resisted attempts to bribe him.

    Steve Donziger, a U.S.-based consulting plaintiffs’ attorney, questioned the timing of Chevron’s latest campaign.

    “I think the timing of the release of these videotapes — which they’ve had, by their own admission, for months — is directly related to the release of a film that they’re scared about and they’re hoping people don’t go see,” Donziger said in a telephone interview.


  3. Ecuador: Seeks carbon-offset investments

    Ecuador this month began seeking out international funding for a project that would leave 846 million barrels in oil reserves — 20 percent of the nation’s total — underground in the Amazonian Yasuni Reserve. For 407 million tons of carbon emissions kept from entering the atmosphere, European governments would pay Ecuador an amount equal to half its lost income, thereby funding clean energy, social development and reforestation.

    Oil extraction accounted for 63.1 percent of Ecuador’s export income last year and 46.6 percent of the government’s budget. According to economist and project leader Alberto Acosta, cited by, the project is aimed at climate change, protecting indigenous lives and biodiversity, and replacing the Kyoto system of carbon exchanges with so-called “co-responsibility.”


  4. Breakthrough in mining law row

    Ecuador: The government announced on Monday that it will review draft mining and water laws which provoked a clash with indigenous groups last week that claimed a protester’s life.

    Indigenous community leaders have agreed to lift Amazon roadblocks which have blocked traffic for a week in return.

    The breakthrough crowned six hours of talks between President Rafael Correa, Vice-President Lenin Moreno and 100 indigenous leaders.


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  10. Ecuadorean Crew Want to Sue U.S. Over Cargo and Fish Damage

    By Courthouse News, Wed, September 25, 2013

    (CN) – The crew of an Ecuadorean vessel may sue the United States for the cargo and fish allegedly damaged when the Coast Guard boarded and searched their ship for drugs, the 9th Circuit ruled Wednesday. The United States is not entitled to sovereign immunity from the lawsuit, the three-judge panel ruled, based on the notion of “reciprocity”: If the nationalities were flipped, and Ecuadoreans had similarly searched a U.S. ship, the American crew would be able to sue the Ecuadorean government. Members of the U.S. Coast Guard aboard the USS McClusky stopped the Ecuadorean vessel in international waters near the Galapagos Islands in 2005, suspecting the crew of smuggling and possessing drugs. The Coast Guard boarded and searched the ship but found no drugs, according to the crew’s federal complaint against the United States. Yet the Coast Guard still arrested and detained the crew for more than 99 days, seized the vessel, and destroyed the fish and cargo on board, the crew claimed. The lawsuit was transferred from Galveston, Texas, to San Diego, where U.S. District Judge William Hayes dismissed the original suit – and an amended version – for lack of jurisdiction. Hayes said the crew members failed to demonstrate reciprocity, a requiring for waiving sovereign immunity. A 9th Circuit panel in Pasadena partially revived the lawsuit in 2011, sending the case back to the district court for further evidence and briefing on whether reciprocity with Ecuador exists. The parties submitted affidavits by experts in Ecuadorean law on remand, but Hayes remained unconvinced. He again held that the U.S. government had not waived its sovereign immunity. The federal appeals court disagreed and said some of the claims could proceed, mainly the ship owners’ demand to be reimbursed for the damaged cargo. Because the concept of “sovereign immunity” does not exist in Ecuadorean law, according to the experts, there would be nothing to stop an American from suing the Ecuadorean government in similar circumstances. The experts’ affidavits “establish that, in similar circumstances, a United States citizen would be able to sue Ecuador in Ecuadorian courts,” Judge Susan Graber wrote for the panel. “Accordingly, reciprocity exists.” The court also rejected the government’s claim that it was immune while exercising a “discretionary function” such as boarding a vessel suspected of illicit activity. While the Coast Guard has the authority to board and inspect ships, the court ruled, it cannot exceed the terms of that authorization or refuse to compensate ship owners for any “damages or losses sustained” if there are no drugs on board. Doing so would violate its own policies and regulations, the 9th Circuit ruled, and that’s exactly what the plaintiffs say the United States did. All claims that “fall outside the non-discretionary duty to pay damages” are barred by the “discretionary function” exception to the waiver of sovereign immunity, the court concluded. In other words, the United States is immune from claims arising from policy-based decisions such as whether to board, search and tow ships.

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