lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Nov 30 08:53:44 MST 2003
At ChevronTexaco, we know that success demands the highest standards of
social, economic and environmental responsibility across our operations
worldwide. Our approach to corporate responsibility is rooted in our core
values, known as the ChevronTexaco Way: "to conduct business in a socially
responsible and ethical manner
support universal human rights
environment, benefit the communities where we work
learn from and respect
cultures in which we work."
LA Times, November 30, 2003
The Hunt for Black Gold Leaves a Stain in Ecuador
As ChevronTexaco faces a major lawsuit, evidence portrays a company and a
nation that for years showed little concern for the environment.
By T. Christian Miller, Times Staff Writer
LAGO AGRIO, Ecuador When Texaco contractors showed up at Monica Torres'
wood shack in the jungle, they said they had come to clean up the mess the
company had left behind.
A pool of black oil sludge sat like a tar pit in her backyard, dumped by
the company years earlier while drilling nearby. Company contractors
trundled in a bulldozer, covered the pit with dirt and told her that it was
But today, nearly a decade later, black gunk still oozes from the
weed-covered mound when it rains. Water from the family's main source, a
nearby stream laced with paisley rainbows of petroleum residue, makes her
children vomit. Torres suffers from severe headaches.
"The crude is still there, alive," said Torres, 40, as one of her sons
pushed a stick a few inches into the pit to reveal black ooze beneath the
dirt. "They just covered it up and left."
Torres is one of thousands of Ecuadoreans who stand to benefit from a
multibillion-dollar lawsuit alleging that Texaco's operations between 1972
and 1992 destroyed land, sickened residents and contributed to the demise
of indigenous tribes. Oil company officials deny the charges, saying the
operations had minimal impact.
The trial, begun this year in Ecuador, has resulted in the release of
thousands of pages of previously confidential memos, studies and internal
documents that reveal the inner workings of Texaco and its majority
partner, the Ecuadorean state oil company, Petroecuador.
With U.S. and international oil companies now pushing deeper into Ecuador's
virgin rain forest, a review of the documents, new studies, and interviews
with current and former Texaco executives and Ecuadorean officials provide
a portrait of how the search for oil can wreak havoc on a remote place and
According to the interviews and documents:
Texaco dumped waste water directly into streams and jungle instead of using
disposal methods safer for the environment and public health that became
common in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s. Oil company
officials regarded those methods as too expensive to be cost-effective in
The Ecuadorean government showed little concern about the environmental
impact of Texaco's drilling operations, regularly cutting the budget for
Texaco issued favorable loans and work contracts, and occasionally withheld
oil payments during its volatile and often contentious relationship with
the government that was supposed to regulate its operations.
During the 20-year period, Texaco pumped 1.5 billion barrels of oil from
Ecuador most of it bound for California markets. By the time the company
pulled out, environmentalists estimated that Texaco had dumped more than 19
billion gallons of waste and spilled 16.8 million gallons of crude oil, 1
1/2 times the amount spilled by the oil tanker Exxon Valdez.
"Texaco took out the best and left its trash behind," said Mario Melo, who
tracks the oil industry for the Center for Economic and Social Rights, a
left-leaning think tank with an office in Quito, Ecuador's capital.
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