The Amazon Defense Front’s public relations efforts have been in high gear trying to discredit a Columbia Journalism Review critique of “60 Minutes” coverage of the Ecuador lawsuit. In doing so, the Front’s spokesperson, Karen Hinton, has misrepresented the factual record as it relates to a particular well site, Shushufindi-38.
Shushufindi-38 entered production in 1974 and was ultimately shut down in 1984. To hear Ms. Hinton tell the story, that’s where the history ends. Yet, her claim that Petroecuador, Ecuador’s state-owned oil company, did not have any operations at the site after 1992 is false.
The Front ignores the fact that in 1994, and after the expiration of the Petroecuador-Texaco Petroleum Consortium, Petroecuador converted Shushufindi-38 to an injection well, a type of well that returns byproducts from oil production to the geologic formations from where they came. In fact, 119 pages of Petroecuador maintenance logs demonstrate ongoing Petroecuador activity at the site as recently as 2008. Petroecuador was performing maintenance at Shushufindi -38 in November 2005 on the very day that a judicial inspection of the site was to occur. The Front was at the inspection and witnessed Petroecuador’s work first hand and yet continues to make inaccurate statements.
Shushufindi-38 remains in operation today. However, that is not the limit of Petroecuador activity at the site. Indeed, since at least 2007, Petroecuador has been performing remediation work at the site. Why? Because the site was not assigned to Texaco-Petroleum as part of the company’s remediation program. Rather, as Petroecuador acknowledges, it is solely responsible for any remediation or clean-up efforts required at Shushufindi-38. The ongoing work at the site was captured by a Reuters photographer earlier this year.
Ms. Hinton’s Shushufindi-38 media missives also point to existing hydrocarbons at the well site. The presence of oil at an active Petroecuador well site should come as no surprise to anyone, and further explains why Petroecuador is in the process of cleaning up the site. Moreover, Petroecuador’s extensive and ongoing maintenance work at Shushufindi-38 explains why the reserve pits at the site remained active and contained freshly deposited crude at the time of the judicial inspection.
Likewise, Ms. Hinton has been highlighting for the media the dubious scientific results the plaintiffs’ lawyers claim came from analysis of soils at Shushufindi-38. Putting the Front’s misrepresentation of regulatory standards aside, the plaintiffs’ analytical results simply confirm what is already common knowledge, and common sense – that Petroecuador needs to complete its remediation of the site.
The Front’s denial of more than 16 years of Petroecuador activity at Shushufindi-38 is disingenuous. The truth about Shushufindi-38 is well-documented and Petroecuador’s ongoing clean-up at the site is simply further evidence that Petroecuador is responsible for remediating Shushufindi-38. Promoting outright falsehoods in an attempt to sway public opinion, as the Front and Ms. Hinton repeatedly do, helps no one, least of all the people of Ecuador’s Amazon. The Front needs to stop its campaign of misrepresentations, and come clean about Shushufindi-38 as well as its meritless lawsuit.
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