What You Won’t Learn on Ecuador’s Toxic Tour
Since late 2013, Ecuador’s government has invited actors, politicians, journalists and many others to the Oriente region of the Amazon to see oil contamination allegedly caused by Texaco. The government claims these pits are evidence of Chevron’s environmental liability in the region. Their favorite tour stop is a site called Aguarico-4 (AG-4). Through scripted media spectacles at this site, the Republic of Ecuador is assisting Steven Donziger in advancing his fraudulent case, while attempting to distract public attention from the government’s own environmental and social obligations in the region.
But here are a few details about AG-4 that they conveniently exclude from their tour:
- Texaco Petroleum (TexPet), which became a subsidiary of Chevron in 2001, was a minority partner in an oil-production consortium in Ecuador along with the state-owned oil company, Petroecuador, from 1964 to 1992. After TexPet turned its remaining share of the oil operations over to Petroecuador in 1992, pursuant to an agreement with Ecuador, the company agreed to conduct a remediation of selected production sites, while Petroecuador committed to perform any remaining cleanup. The government of Ecuador oversaw – and certified – the successful completion of TexPet’s remediation and fully released the company from further environmental liability. Petroecuador, however, failed to conduct the cleanup it promised and has continued to operate and expand oil operations in the former concession over the past 20 years – including AG-4.
- The soil at AG-04 was remediated by TexPet between September and October of 1996, and inspected by the government of Ecuador. Inspectors from the National Hydrocarbons Bureau and Petroproduccion certified TexPet’s soil remediation at AG-04 was successful on March 14, 1997, and on March 20, 1997, the Ecuador Ministry of Energy and Mines approved TexPet’s work at AG-04 as complete.
- In 2006, Petroecuador identified AG-04 as a pit it was responsible for remediating under a government remediation program. But representatives of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Chevron met with members of President Rafael Correa’s administration to try to stop the remediation program and developed a plan to halt the remediation fearing it would hurt their case.
- While they continue to publicly claim to work in the interests of the environment, their actions tell a different story. Privately, as shown here, they have pressured Petroecuador to halt its remediation program. Fearful that Chevron would, in Fajardo’s words, “say that the State finally assumed its duty and is going to clean up what it ought to,” Steven Donziger instructed Fajardo “to go to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa to put an end to this shit once and for all.”
A recent BusinessWeek report aptly summarized the Republic’s efforts: “By focusing celebrity and popular ire on Chevron, Correa hopes to distract his own people and anyone else who’s paying attention from the harsh reality that poor Ecuadorians in the jungle have their own government to blame…”
And the Economist stated: “Petroecuador’s own corporate documents suggest a long-standing interest in Aguarico-4. Its statistical report of 2007 lists Aguarico-4 as a “production recovery” site; its 2011 report refers to “reconditioning work” going on at the pool. That seems to confirm that Petroecuador has for some time regarded Aguarico-4 as its responsibility. It also seems to deny Mr Correa’s claim that the site has been neglected since 1986. Perhaps Mr Correa should tell all of humanity about that.”