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This news comes on the heels of two diaries I published in the last week, about the Chevron case, and about Yasuni National Park and Ecuador's new constitution.

The caca's really hitting the ventilidor for Big Oil. If this case goes against them, every third world country with a trans-national corporation drilling in its back yard has suddenly been dealt the upper hand.

Amazon Defense Coalition
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 2009-02-04
Karen Hinton: 703-798-3109
Karen@hintoncommunications.com

New Evidence Shows Chevron Manipulated Lab Results in Landmark Environmental Trial

Chevron Faces $27 Billion Liability for Toxic Catastrophe in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest

Quito, Ecuador (Feb 04, 2009) - Scientists in the $27 billion class action lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador's Amazon have discovered that the company manipulated laboratory results to evade a judgment at trial, lawyers for indigenous tribes announced today.

Chevron's misleading lab results have been presented by the company as a defense to the environmental lawsuit, brought by 30,000 rainforest residents in Ecuador over the dumping of 18 billion gallons of toxic waste in the rainforest from 1964 to 1990. An independent court expert recently estimated damages at $27 billion with a final judgment expected later this year.

Texaco was the sole operator of a driling lease in Ecuador's rainforest from 1964 to 1990. Chevron purchased Texaco and assumed its liabilities.

The testing issue comes from a point in the case as Texaco was being tried in New York, where the case was bogged down in an argument over venue. [It seems that Chevron wanted the case to be moved to Ecuador, where a sole judge - no jury- would try the case, and where Big Oil has a history of $ucce$$.] Chevron made a proposal; they would agree to remediate about one third of the affected areas (they were in a partnership with PetroEcuador, the national company, who would be responsible for the rest) in exchange for a release of liability.

A 2007 Vanity Fair article gives an excellent account of the trial and an in-depth bio of the main Ecuadorian attorney, Pablo Fajardo, who has weathered threats and assasination attempts. Here the account is about one aspect of the soil testing chapter. The numbers don't match up because the article reports parts per million in soil, while the recent press release cites oil leaching into water . But both come from the same cleanup samples, and both point to fraud.

Texaco did not propose to clean up the streams and rivers (let alone the subsurface waters), or to pursue the question of people's health. What did Texaco mean by "remediate"? Certainly not to restore the ground to its original condition. Instead, it proposed setting a cleanup standard based on a value for total petroleum hydrocarbons (T.P.H.) measured in parts per million. While Ecuador's standard was 1000 parts per million, Texaco asked for a standard of 5000 parts.

Texaco hired a big American engineering-and-consulting firm called Woodward-Clyde and paid it $40 million to handle the remediation. Most of the firms actually doing the work were Ecuadorean, selected from a list provided by the government. The quality of their performance varied. After it was done and the sites had been covered with dirt, Woodward-Clyde took soil samples and without exception reported T.P.H.'s of 5,000 or less, demonstrating that according to the contract the remediation had been achieved.

Recently [the Vanity Fair writer] spoke to a geochemist with extensive experience in the field who disputes the quality of Woodward-Clyde's methods, but who did not suggest that their numbers were inventions: there are many ways to sample soil, he said, and consultants who work for "potentially responsible parties" (P.R.P.'s, in the language of oil and mining) have to be experts at compliance if they expect to survive. In any case, and for whatever reason, in 1998 the [corrupt] government of Ecuador signed off on the job. Fajardo alleges that a fraud occurred. Chevron denies it absolutely.

Returning to the Amazon Defense coalition press release:

Douglas Beltman, an executive vice-president at Stratus Consulting in Boulder, said that Texaco used a laboratory test called the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) to measure soil contamination remaining after its purported clean-up of dozens of waste pits in Ecuador between 1995 and 1998. The TCLP test is designed to evaluate the amount of soil contamination that leaches into surrounding water, rather than the amount of contamination in the soil itself. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that the TCLP test not be used for oil-contaminated soils because of unreliability.

In a remarkable finding, Beltman discovered that in Ecuador Texaco used a clean-up standard of 1,000 mg/L of oil that leaches into water from soil in the TCLP test to determine whether it had properly remediated the soil -- a threshold level physically impossible to reach because the water solubility of crude oil is typically 10 mg/L or less.

This finding solves a mystery over the contradiction between company data that said there was no trace of oil, while residents of the same area could plainly see it.  Sample results found levels of hydrocarbons much higher than Chevron's claims.

This is what Chevron's lawyer said, contemptuously.

"We feel confident that we'll ultimately prevail," said Chevron general counsel Charles James in a telephone interview from the company's San Ramon headquarters. "Even if they get a bogus decree out of a court in Ecuador, their ability to enforce this is going to be very limited. We would contest enforcement based on the poor (legal) process."

Good luck with that.

Fajardo said the new evidence can be used in a criminal case against two Chevron lawyers and seven government officials indicted for lying about the clean-up.

The $27 billion in damages is primarily to cover the clean-up of soils and groundwater, install a water system, provide health care, and to compensate the region for cancer deaths.

A final judgment in the case is expected later this year.

REC'D? Great. News like this challenges the bullshit Chevron ads on PBS  asking us to join them in the new energy future. Join them?

UPDATE:

The Washington Times has just published this article:

Chevron urges U.S. to revoke Ecuador trade
Will likely face hurdle for Obama support

Tom LoBianco (Contact)
Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chevron executives are renewing efforts to have Ecuador's preferential trade status with the U.S. revoked next month, although the oil company is unlikely to find a sympathetic ear with President Obama. Chevron and its subsidiary Texaco have been locked in a legal battle in the South American country since 1993 when about 50 Ecuadorean Indian residents of Lago Agro sued Texaco, maintaining that American oil exploration and extraction had created an "Amazonian Chernobyl." Chevron executives expect an Ecuadorean court to file soon a judgment against them in the class-action suit on behalf of tens of thousands of Indians.

The company says the judgment, which could reach up to $27 billion and which Chevron says has been whipped up by populist President Rafael Correa, should give the U.S. grounds to cancel Ecuador's benefits under the Andean Trade Preferences Act.

But Chevron faces a large hurdle in the form of Mr. Obama, who has previously supported Ecuador's trade privileges and is a schoolmate of the plaintiffs' top lawyer.

They must be really, really desperate.

Originally posted to bob zimway on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 07:28 AM PST.

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