Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Problem | We Can Change Chevron

The Problem | We Can Change Chevron

The Problem

Chevron is responsible for one of the largest environmental disasters in history. Rather than take responsibility, however, the oil giant is waging unprecedented public relations and lobbying campaigns to avoid having to clean up environmental and public health catastrophes that continue today.

A toxic waste pit left by Texaco (now Chevron) near Dureno, Ecuador in 1993. - Photo by Lou Dematteis

Between 1964 and 1990, Texaco (which Chevron acquired in 2001) drilled for oil in a remote northern region of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. Using obsolete technology and substandard environmental controls, the company deliberately dumped 18.5 billion gallons of highly toxic waste sludge into the streams and rivers that local people depend on for drinking, bathing, and fishing. The company dug over 900 open-air, unlined waste pits that continue to seep toxins into the ground. The sludge contains some of the most dangerous chemicals known — including benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) — in lethal concentrations. Rupturing oil pipelines and gas flaring was also a regular occurrence.

What’s worse, the dumping was done intentionally to cut corners and save an estimated $3 per barrel.

Cofan indigenous leader Emergildo Criollo. - Photo by Lou Dematteis

In the Oriente region of the Ecuadorean rainforest, which once supported 30,000 people, the land itself has become toxic and the entire water system contaminated. Almost any kind of food from this region — whether it’s farmed, domesticated, caught in the wild or in water — is unsafe to eat.

While Chevron has refused to accept responsibility and clean up the pollution, more than 1,400 people have died of attributed cancers — and continue to die — from Chevron’s toxic legacy. Children under 14 have been most vulnerable, suffering high rates of birth defects and leukemia. Parents cannot adequately feed their families. Local economies and communities have collapsed. And for those who remain, their way of life, their culture and traditions, have been radically altered.

Chevron has actually denied that 18.5 billion gallons of toxic waste can harm people.

Courageously, the rainforest people are standing up to Chevron. Seventeen years ago they filed a class-action lawsuit that they continue to fight today. Damages for this historic trial, taking place in Ecuadorean court, has been assessed at a record $27.3 billion. If successful, the case will establish a monumental precedent for corporate accountability and environmental justice across the globe. If successful, Chevron will be forced to finally care about human health and the environment.

Learn more about the contamination in Ecuador and the historic trial at ChevronToxico.com.

Chevron’s dangerous, irresponsible practices and policies are not confined to Ecuador — or to the past.

Today, Chevron’s century-old oil refinery in Richmond, California, is the state’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. For decades, this pollution has caused high rates of asthma, cancer, and heart disease in the region. But instead of reducing pollution, Chevron has been trying to “update” the refinery to process heavier oil grades, which would spew greater amounts of global warming and disease-causing gases into our atmosphere.

Around the world, over and over again, Chevron’s outdated practices and policies have consistently violated human rights, damaged human health, and worsened global warming.

In Kazakhstan, Chevron has contaminated land and water resources and impaired the health of local residents. In Canada’s Alberta region, Chevron is invested in tar sands — one of the most environmentally damaging projects on the planet. In the Niger Delta, Chevron is complicit in human rights violations committed by security forces against local people. In the Philippines, regular oil leaks and spills have sickened Manila residents. Chevron’s operations in Burma are providing a financial lifeline to the Burmese military regime — known for its appalling human rights record. In Western Australia, Chevron’s liquefied natural gas facility threatens the health of local communities and fragile humpback whale and turtle populations.

From Richmond, California to Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, communities are working to change Chevron. But to really move one of the world’s largest and most dangerous corporations, we need an even bigger, more powerful, and more global movement. Join us.

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