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She Blinded Me With “Science”

Despite the fact that all of his scientific and environmental experts have sworn under oath that there is no evidence to support his claims against Chevron, Steven Donziger and his team are once again resorting to junk science to distract attention from their fraudulent activities.

The sampling data Donziger and his PR team have recently hailed as some sort of new-found smoking gun actually prove what Chevron has always maintained: Texaco Petroleum Company (TexPet) cleaned-up the sites that it agreed to clean up, and every site TexPet remediated met standards mandated by the government of Ecuador.  Donziger’s PR team seems to believe that by throwing around names of chemical compounds and complicated acronyms they will convince people their case isn’t a fraud.

While these claims have been refuted and proven meritless in previous posts, we will once again explain them away.

Before President Rafael Correa took power in Ecuador, the state-owned oil company, Petroecuador, repeatedly acknowledged that it is their responsibility to clean up any remaining environmental impacts from oil operations. In 2006, Petroecuador developed plans to conduct a cleanup of many of the same pits Donziger and the Republic now claim are Chevron’s responsibility. That clean-up program, known by its Spanish acronym PEPDA, would have been completed by now but Donziger and his co-conspirators lobbied the Correa administration to stop Petroecuador’s remediation fearing it would hurt his case against Chevron.

But Donziger’s team didn’t just ignore these basic facts about the environmental testing, they got them flat-out wrong.

  • TPH: They claim that Ecuador law only allows 1,000 parts per million of total petroleum hydrocarbons, or TPH, for remediation standards and that TexPet exceeded these levels.  Petroecuador, however, remediates its pits to 2,500 or 4,000 parts per million standards, as permitted by Ecuador law. Further, the claim that “TPH is a measurement of toxic and, in some cases, carcinogenic chemicals and metals in soil,” is simply wrong, as is explained here.
  • Remediation: Donziger and his team have again claimed that TexPet’s remediation was inadequate or fraudulent, alleging the company just poured dirt on oil pits.  They fail to acknowledge, however, that the company’s remediation was overseen and certified by the government of Ecuador’s own inspectors, as well as independent third-party technical experts.  It is documented with thousands of photos, videos, records, samples, and governmental approvals. Through the course of the lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador, every sample from every pit remediated by TexPet met the standards agreed to by the government of Ecuador.
  • Benzene: His team is also again claiming that Chevron’s experts found “illegal amounts” of benzene.  Chevron’s experts did in fact find high levels of benzene – 18 mg/kg at one pit near the Sacha Norte 2 well site.  That pit, however, was built by Petroecuador after TexPet ceased operations in Ecuador. There is no possible way that the benzene found at Sacha Norte 2 was a result of Texaco’s operations.  In addition, the pit was closed by Petroecuador in 2006 so they could drill six new wells at the site.
  • Barium: Donziger’s team claims that the barium found near well sites is a health hazard.  Once again, they are wrong.  The barium found near the well sites in Ecuador is barite, an insoluble form of barium found in drilling muds.  The USEPA has found that barite is a form of barium that is non-toxic to humans or animals.
  • Lead:  His team highlights that lead was found in one sample.  What they don’t say, however, is that the sample was from a pit that Petroecuador had responsibility for under the agreement between TexPet and the government of Ecuador, and Petroecuador completed its remediation of that pit in 2007.
  • Cadmium:  Donziger’s team points to a cadmium result in a sample from Sacha 18.  However, that result was below human health risk criterion for cadmium calculated using USEPA guidelines, and also is below Ecuador’s current legal limits for cadmium at operating industrial properties like Sacha 18.

Steven Donziger was famously caught on videotape calling the scientific case against Chevron “smoke and mirrors and bullshit.” We couldn’t agree more.


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