Reeling from the public revelation that they submitted fraudulent expert reports to the court in Lago Agrio, the Amazon Defense Front’s lawyers are trying to change the topic of conversation. In doing so, however, they are only making things worse.
On April 20, 2010 Karen Hinton, the Front’s publicist, responded to a Washington Times editorial critical of the trial lawyers’ misconduct by stating, “contamination results submitted to the Ecuadorian court by Chevron itself show illegal levels of contamination dangerous to human health and the environment at the very pits Texaco said it cleaned.” This statement is false:
- There is overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrating that Texaco Petroleum’s remediation work was effective and complies with the applicable standards established by the government of Ecuador at the time of the remediation.
- Independent scientific analysis of every remediated site performed by technicians working for the government of Ecuador at the time of the clean-up further corroborates the effectiveness of the remediation.
- Subsequent to the remediation, Ecuadorian Prosecutors General serving two separate administrations have commissioned additional scientific analysis of Texaco Petroleum-remediated sites. In both instances, the scientific results demonstrate that Texaco’s remediation met and complied with applicable standards.
As the basis for their claims, the plaintiffs’ lawyers point to a 1,000 parts per million (ppm) total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) standard in Decree 1215, a regulation enacted by Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment in 2001. While Decree 1215 was intended to govern environmental aspects of hydrocarbon production, the Ecuadorian constitution prohibits the unfair and retroactive application of a 2001 standard to remediation that was completed in 1998. Moreover, the 1,000 ppm standard only applies to “patrimony national natural areas or others identified in a corresponding environmental study”—national parks or other designated protected areas. At no point in time did the remediated oil fields at issue meet this definition. Further, not even Petroecuador, Ecuador’s state-owned oil company uses this standard. Petroecuador currently remediates below 2,500 ppm TPH (1215’s agricultural land standard) with the full approval of the government of Ecuador.
In trying to shift public attention away from their own misconduct, the Front and its lawyers are attempting to conceal the truth, only reinforcing their reputation as a one-stop-shop for misinformation. Indeed, instead of explaining why the Front’s lawyers submitted fabricated evidence to the court in Lago Agrio, Ms. Hinton instead questions why the plaintiffs’ former expert, Dr. Charles Calmbacher, who until his recent deposition was unaware that the plaintiffs lawyers had filed fabricated expert reports in his name, “wait[ed] six years to speak up.” Facts are stubborn things, and it is time for the contingency-fee lawyers behind the Front to end their game of misdirection, and answer for their misconduct in Lago Agrio.