According to the plaintiffs’ lead U.S. lawyer Steven Donziger, “If you repeat a lie 1,000 times, it becomes the truth.” Donziger has now embarked on an attempt to cash-in on his biggest lie — a fraudulently obtained $18 billion judgment against Chevron Corporation in Ecuador.
Donziger and the plaintiffs approached multiple U.S. law firms to represent them. But several firms either withdrew from the case or refused to participate after having reviewed evidence of Donziger’s and the plaintiffs’ fraud and misconduct. Recently, Donziger and the plaintiffs obtained the services of the Canadian law firm of Lenczner Slaght to try to enforce the fraudulently obtained Ecuadorian judgment in Canada, where Chevron Corporation itself does not do business.
Two recent news articles attributed statements to Alan Lenczner that are part of the plaintiffs’ extensive misinformation campaign about the case. Plaintiffs routinely claim, without any proof despite almost 10 years of environmental sampling, that the water in the area around the oil operations in Ecuador is contaminated and that local residents have suffered health impacts. Those claims were, according to recent news articles, repeated by Mr. Lenczner:
“The pits are unlined, Lenczner says, meaning chemicals from the oil can seep into groundwater. They also overflow into surface streams.”
“Kids are drinking this water. It’s on their fields and in their crops.”- Toronto Star, 5/31/12
“There are very, very high rates of cancer and other malformation, because they’ve been drinking the water, they’ve been swimming in some of this stuff, they do their washing in the rivers which have got oil in them, they drink the stuff. So they’ve had every kind of imaginable ailment, mainly high rates of cancer.”- Epoch Times, 6/6/12
None of these claims about water contamination from oil impacts or health impacts is true.
The claims of widespread drinking water and groundwater contamination from unlined pits have long been disproven. Chevron sampled around the perimeters of the pits found at the oil field sites, and sampled every accessible drinking water source in the area around the sites. Dr. William Bellamy, a member of EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors for Drinking Water, evaluated the sampling results for Chevron — 7,000 analytical results from more than 250 drinking water samples — and found that “there has not been, and it is highly unlikely that there will be future contamination of drinking water sources resulting from Texaco Petroleum’s (TexPet) activities in the former concession area.” Dr. Charles Newell, a leading groundwater scientist and author of the textbook Groundwater Contamination: Transport and Remediation, examined the samples for Chevron and concluded that “there is no evidence of groundwater contamination caused by TexPet operations in the former Concession area.”
The plaintiffs’ own scientists and consultants agree. David Russell, the consultant that headed the plaintiffs’ scientific team, told the plaintiffs’ lawyers in 2006 “[t]o date, I have seen no data which would indicate that there is any significant surface or groundwater contamination caused by petroleum sources in Ecuador.” And just last year, Ann Maest, one of the plaintiffs’ scientific experts, testified under oath that she was not aware of any scientific data “indicating that drinking water wells have been impacted in any way by TexPet’s operations.” Donziger’s response to being told by the plaintiffs’ experts that there was no evidence to support the claims of contamination migrating in groundwater was to instruct the experts to just “extrapolate” sampling results from oil field pits to other areas, because “this is all for the Court just a bunch of smoke and mirrors and bullshit.”
The claim of “very, very high rates of cancer” in the area around the oil operations also has been thoroughly examined and debunked. Dr. Thomas McHugh, a health risk assessment expert, evaluated more than 2,200 environmental samples taken during the litigation using USEPA standard risk assessment methodologies for Chevron, and found no unsafe levels of hydrocarbons or other metals in the water, soil or sediment to which residents could be exposed. In other words, there was no evidence that residents in the area were coming into contact with any petroleum-related chemicals that put them at any risk. Drs. Michael Kelsh and Libby Morimoto, experts for Chevron, also evaluated Ecuador’s official statistical data on cancer mortality in a 2008 peer-reviewed study in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, and found that there was no increased rates of cancer in the region, and more generally, no evidence linking residence near oil operations to cancer.
The overwhelming scientific evidence in the Ecuador court record demonstrates that the claims of contaminated drinking water and elevated cancer rates are false, and that the plaintiffs’ U.S. and Ecuadorian lawyers know they are false. Indeed, it is precisely because the sampling evidence was disproving their claims that the plaintiffs’ lawyers turned to fraud, pressuring scientific experts to “find contamination” where none existed, submitting fraudulent expert reports to the Ecuadorian court, ghostwriting the Ecuadorian court expert’s supposedly “neutral” and “independent” report, and then ghostwriting the ultimate judgment itself.