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Human rights impacts of oil pollution: Ecuador

Assessing responsibility of Chevron/Texaco versus Petroecuador

Italicised quotations below are selected abstracts; for full text, click hyperlinked titles.

Statement by Amazon Watch & Frente de defensa de la amazonia

Chevron vs. Petroecuador's Responsibility”, ChevronToxico: The Campaign for Justice in Ecuador (Amazon Watch & Frente de defensa de la amazonia)
“In reality, Chevron's effort to scapegoat Petroecuador is a shameless attempt to rewrite 40 years of history. From 1964 to 1990, Texaco (now Chevron) designed, built, and operated an oil production system done on the cheap. Rather than see its profits diminish, Texaco used outdated (and illegal in major oil producing states in the U.S.) technology intended to pollute. During this time, Texaco was the sole operator of its oil concession in Ecuador and made all relevant operating decisions, including to dump produced water and to store wasLou Dematteiste in unlined pits. By the 1980s, the area was internationally recognized as an environmental disaster zone, due to Texaco's negligent practices – in fact, Brazilian petroleum engineers were at one point sent to Ecuador to learn exactly what not to do in a sensitive rainforest environment. In 1991 Texaco was in the process of leaving Ecuador, and leaving behind what is now considered one of the worst oil related disasters on the planet. By 1993, based on the overwhelming level of environmental contamination throughout Texaco's former concession area, the Aguinda v. Texaco case was filed in the state of New York, then home to Texaco's corporate headquarters. Petroecuador had just begun to take over the company's former operations. In other words, the concession area was an environmental disaster zone comprised of thousands of what would be Superfund sites in the U.S., before Petroecuador even began operating. This mess still exists today. A $40 million remediation conducted by Texaco in the mid-1990s was pathetically inadequate. Waste pits buried or left standing by Texaco continue to leak crude oil, and the health effects of 26 years of Texaco operations continue to multiply, among people who have lived for decades amid appalling pollution. Petroecuador has operated the concession for nearly two decades, and we readily admit it has a poor environmental track record, including many oil spills. Part of this is due to the fact that the company inherited utterly inadequate infrastructure and technology from Texaco: technology that was obsolete in the 1970s, let alone now. Nonetheless, Petroecuador has made some, although insufficient, steps over the years to clean up its operation and finally catch up to industry standards. For example, it now reinjects nearly 100% of its produced water. For 26 years, Texaco never reinjected any.”

Statement by Chevron

Petroecuador's Responsibility for Ecuadorian Amazon”, from a Chevron website entitled “History of Texaco and Chevron in Ecuador”
“The U.S. attorneys bringing the lawsuit against Chevron are pointing the finger of responsibility in the wrong direction, blatantly ignoring the well-established fact that state-owned Petroecuador is responsible for the current state of oil operations in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
State-Owned Oil Company Controlled All Operating and Budgetary Decisions: Contrary to plaintiffs' attorney's claims that Chevron's subsidiary Texaco Petroleum Company (Texpet) controlled the oil development operation, Petroecuador, as majority partner of the consortium, and as a party to the Napo Joint Operating Agreement, exercised significant control over the operations. This means that Petroecuador participated in all major decisions relating to equipment, technology and production methods.
Petroecuador's Unfulfilled Cleanup Responsibility: From 1995 through 1998 Texpet spent over $40 million to remediate a portion of the oil production sites in the former concession area consistent with its minority interest in the consortium with Petroecuador. As majority owner of the consortium, and consistent with remediation and settlement agreements entered into by the Government of Ecuador, Petroecuador assumed responsibility for the remainder of these sites. Nevertheless, Petroecuador has neither accounted for the completion of its remediation responsibilities, nor answered for ongoing pollution at sites where it has been the sole operator since 1990. Despite being made aware of Petroecuador's unfulfilled obligations, plaintiff's attorneys have aggressively pursued claims against Chevron for over a decade and have yet to file any claims against Petroecuador, thereby ignoring more legitimate avenues of relief.
Petroecuador's Legacy of Substandard Operations: Petroecuador, the sole operator of the former oil concession over the last 17 years has grievously failed to fulfill its remediation obligations, operating the oil fields in a manner that has caused numerous environmental problems. Despite assuming responsibility for its share of the consortium's remediation obligations, Petroecuador delayed any meaningful clean-up activities on its part:

‘For over 30 years Petroecuador has done absolutely nothing to remediate those pits under its responsibility.’- Energy Minister Manuel Muñoz, Director of National Environmental Protection Management, Ministry of Energy, in an appearance before Congress on May 10, 2006

Meanwhile, Petroecuador allowed equipment, infrastructure and operations to deteriorate:

‘There is a very serious problem regarding the pipelines, regarding all transmission systems-both of oil as well as of derivatives-which have mostly become obsolete because the budget is not adequate to replace them. Mr. President, this is one of the most important sources of contamination because their useful life has come to an end and they have not been replaced, so spills occur. This is one of the most important causes of spills we face now; in addition to this, we have to take into consideration that there is contamination due to attacks to the pipeline.’ Energy Minister Muñoz

According to Petroecuador's own data, the company has been responsible for a total of 801 spills between 1990 and 2004, with a total spill volume of 1.9 million gallons.

  • According to more recent publicly available information, Petroecuador has recorded 882 oil spills from 2002 to 2006 alone…”