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Chevron in Ecuador: Big Lies- The Truth Behind Trial Lawyer’s Deceptive Statements

According to the plaintiffs’ lead U.S. lawyer Steven Donziger, “If you repeat a lie 1,000 times, it becomes the truth.” While advancing their meritless case, the Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ lawyers have, for years, repeated lies and distortions, knowing full well they are unfounded. Even as these claims have been thoroughly debunked by science and exposed- through their own correspondence- as manufactured and fraudulent, the lawyers and their colleagues continue to perpetuate the same false and baseless claims, time and again. The following items are some of the plaintiffs’ lawyers oft repeated lies and the truth they don’t want the public to know.

The Lago Agrio Plaintiffs’ Lawyers Have No Evidence of “Poisoned” Water

The Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ lawyers repeatedly assert that “toxic and in many cases carcinogenic, chemicals continue to lace the waters that thousands of indigenous persons and farmers depend on for every facet of their lives.”  But when plaintiffs’ experts found no evidence of harmful contamination from oil production, they stopped testing groundwater and drinking water.

Even Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa said recently in his weekly nationwide broadcast: “The biggest contaminating factor for our fresh water is waste, sewage from the cities… Like the contamination of the Tena River, it’s not oil. It’s not mining.

The Lago Agrio Plaintiffs’ Lawyers Have No Evidence of Agricultural Soil Contamination

The Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ lawyers claim that “tens of thousands of men, women, and children . . . are still waiting for . . . unpoisoned soil in which to grow their crops.” They decry a “Rainforest Chernobyl” with “contamination . . . covering an area of rainforest the size of Rhode Island.”  But even their own consultant, Doug Beltman of Stratus, conceded that “I do not think that contamination sufficient to impact the ecology extends very far beyond the pads, pits, and spills at the wells.” Even the fraudulent Cabrera Report, secretly written by the plaintiffs’ representatives, estimates the area requiring remediation as only 0.37 square miles. And the plaintiffs’ former expert, David Russell, who coined the phrase “Rainforest Chernobyl,” has renounced his findings and his association with the LAPs.

The Lago Agrio Plaintiffs’ Lawyers Have No Evidence of an Elevated Cancer Rate

The Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ lawyers label the former concession area a “death zone” and a “cancer zone,” claim “increased rates of cancer, leukemia, birth defects, and a multiplicity of other health ailments,” and assert that oil contamination has caused “1,401 excess cancer deaths.” But the Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ lawyers own experts admit that the 1,401 number has “little validity” and that “no one has studied” the causality between oil production prior to 1992 and any illnesses in Ecuador.

The Lago Agrio Plaintiffs’ Lawyers Have No Evidence That Texaco’s Remediation Was “Fraudulent”

The Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ lawyers persuaded the government of Ecuador to bring baseless criminal charges against Chevron attorneys involved in the Texaco remediation, and to assert a “fraud” counterclaim against Chevron in litigation in the Southern District of New York—which Donziger described as a “hammer” to leverage a payoff. But plaintiffs’ expert Doug Beltman himself found no “clear instances where Texaco did not meet the conditions required in the cleanup.” Former plaintiffs’ experts Dave Russell and Charles Calmbacher said the same thing. Ecuador ultimately withdrew the fraud counterclaim it had asserted because it lacked evidence.

The plaintiffs’ experts have repeatedly challenged these unsupported allegations.  When former expert Russell sent Donziger a “cease-and-desist” letter demanding that he stop using Russell’s remediation estimate of $6 billion (which Russell described as “too high by a substantial margin, perhaps by a factor of ten, or more”), Donziger’s response was blunt: “I don’t care what the fuck that guy says.” When plaintiffs’ experts, including Stratus’s Ann Maest, told Donziger they had no evidence of contaminants migrating into the groundwater, he replied:

Hold on a second, you know, this is Ecuador, okay, . . . You can say whatever you want and at the end of the day, there’s a thousand people around the courthouse, you’re going to get what you want. . . . Therefore, if we take our existing evidence on groundwater contamination, which admittedly is right below the source . . . [a]nd wanted to extrapolate based on nothing other than our, um, theory . . . [w]e can do it. And we can get money for it. . . .  Because at the end of the day, this is all for the Court just a bunch of smoke and mirrors and bullshit.

When one expert pushed back, explaining that “there is not enough information on that groundwater,” Donziger instructed the camera crew to stop filming, stating, “[T]here’s another point I got to make . . . to these guys, but I can’t get this on camera.”

Facts are stubborn things and there’s no escaping the fact that the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ case is meritless.


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