San Francisco, CA. - Amazon Watch and environmental activist/producer Trudie Styler joined forces today to urge Chevron investors to impose a “buy freeze” of Chevron stock until the oil major resolves a multi-billion dollar liability arising from a landmark environmental lawsuit over its toxic contamination of a vast area of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
The call came in separate letters from Styler and Amazon Watch, a human rights and environmental group, during the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) conference in San Francisco. Co-sponsored by Chevron, the conference draws more than 1,000 corporate leaders from across the world to debate issues of social and environmental responsibility.
Despite Chevron’s current $15 million advertising campaign portraying the company as a responsible corporate citizen, Amazon Watch charged in its letter that Chevron has a human rights and environmental record that should be beyond the pale for any reputable company; in addition to the Ecuador disaster, which resulted from Texaco (now Chevron) deliberately dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into the rainforest, Chevron is accused of using the Nigerian military to repress protests, resulting in the deaths of various villagers. Chevron is also being criticized heavily for generating hundreds of millions in royalties for the military government of Burma through its ownership of a gas project in the country..
In the letter, Amazon Watch warns investors that Chevron’s liability in Ecuador is not just moral but also financial, and potentially affects the company’s bottom line given that the 30,000 plaintiffs there, all impoverished rainforest dwellers, are demanding an environmental remediation that various experts say could cost $10 billion.
Amazon Watch writes: “Despite Chevron’s decade-long attempt to conceal these liabilities from shareholders, regulatory authorities and financial markets, the imminence of a final decision in the lawsuit can no longer be hidden. A growing group of investors and analysts are increasingly concerned that Chevron’s modus operandi in Ecuador has unnecessarily exposed the company to serious, long-term financial and reputational risks.”
Styler, the wife of Sting, has written her own letter to investors urging them to commit to not purchase Chevron stock until the company pays for a full clean-up of the Ecuadorian Amazon. “The pollution that Chevron left behind is killing people,” she writes. “Human decency requires nothing less than the company’s acceptance of responsibility for cleaning up the contamination.”
Styler has visited Ecuador’s Amazon region twice in recent months to meet with indigenous and community leaders living in the area where Chevron operated. Along with UNICEF, Styler and the Rainforest Foundation she founded with Sting in 1989 is funding a pilot project to deliver clean water to residents in the region.
Mitch Anderson, Amazon Watch Corporate Accountability Campaigner, said: “Chevron is spending millions of dollars in advertising to convince investors and consumers that it cares about human rights and the environment. But no amount of misleading advertising can hide Chevron’s gross violations of human rights in Ecuador. Everything else is just corporate greenwashing while innocent people in the rainforest suffer and die as a result of Chevron’s greed.”
Amazon Watch is contacting institutional and individual shareholders - in particular, socially responsible investment community (SRIs) and public employees, teachers and university pension funds to urge them to join the buy freeze. The trial court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, has found shocking levels of life-threatening toxins at dozens of former Chevron production sites in Ecuador. At the Chevron well-site Lago 2, Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPHs) were found at 325,000 parts per million - 3,250 times higher than permitted in California, Chevron’s home state. At another site (Sacha Norte 2), Chevron itself reported a TPH sample at 91,800 ppm - or 918 times higher than U.S. law.
Now Chevron is being accused of fraud in Ecuador for lying about the results of a limited remediation it did in the mid-1990s. At several sites Chevron claims to have remediated, levels of toxicity in the soil have been reported that greatly exceed U.S. standards and the norm in Chevron’s remediation contract.
As a result, Ecuador’s Attorney General has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Chevron’s alleged fraud. The Securities and Exchange Commission already is probing the company for failing to disclose the potential liability to shareholders.
The Ecuador court case is expected to reach a conclusion in 2008 after more than a decade of litigation in US and Ecuadorian courts. Currently, thousands of oil and water samples submitted to the court by both the plaintiffs and Chevron show overwhelming toxic and carcinogenic contamination in a vast oil concession operated from the 1960s to the 1990s. Local communities are suffering a public health crisis, including a wave of cancers, according to representatives of the plaintiffs.