ChevronTexaco – Cleanup of Toxic Legacy in Ecuador (2003 – 2004)
Through its “TexPet” subsidiary, Texaco extracted over 1.5 billion barrels of oil from the Ecuadorian Amazon between 1971 and 1992. Texaco was acquired by ChevronTexaco in 2001.
An estimated 16.8 million barrels of oil were spilled from the pipeline during this time, contaminating land and water. None of the hundreds of oil spills from Texaco operations were adequately remediated.
It is estimated that over 20 years of operations in Ecuador, Texaco systematically dumped 18.5 billion gallons of toxic waste waters into open unlined pits (New York Times, 10/24/03), or directly into streams, rivers, or swamps although it was standard practice at the time in the U.S. to re-inject formation waters into the ground in the oil production process.
Texaco completed a limited cleanup of 207 of the 627 unlined toxic waste pits through an agreement with the Ecuadorian government in 1998. The baseline of this cleanup was set by an environmental audit conducted by a consultancy overseen by Texaco and Petroecuador, Ecuador’s state oil company. Texaco did not address groundwater contamination in its remediation activities.
Evidence has emerged that challenges the adequacy of Texaco’s environmental cleanup:
Waste pits approved as ”clean” contained hydrocarbon levels 50-500 times that permitted in the U.S. A 10/03 study by Petroecuador and Frente de Defensa de la Amazonia tested soil and water samples from 323 wells and 627 waste pools left over in camps operated by Texaco. It found hydrocarbon contamination exceeding levels set by Ecuadorian environmental law. The Petroecuador study also revealed the severe hydrocarbon contamination of five large wetland areas next to Texaco facilities.Studies have linked Texaco’s soil and water contamination to devastating health impacts on neighboring communities:
A 1994 study conducted by the Center for Economic and Social Rights found that water samples from drinking, bathing and fishing sources used by communities living near the contamination sites contained levels of PAHs up to 1,000 times greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s safety guidelines. A 2000 study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Ecuadorian health authorities found eight types of cancer in San Carlos, a community near former Texaco wells, and that the incidences of these cancers are far exceed historical norms.According to the Petroecuador study, exposure to and consumption of the contaminated waters has led to numerous types of infections and cancers.RESOLVED: The shareholders request that ChevronTexaco’s Board prepare a report on new initiatives instituted by management to address the specific health and environmental concerns of villagers living near unremediated waste pits and other sources of oil-related contamination in the area where Texaco operated in Ecuador.
In our view, Texaco’s cleanup efforts were inadequate and our company has a continuing ethical obligation to redress the outstanding environment and health consequences of its activities in Ecuador. Negative publicity generated by this situation damages our credibility as an environmentally responsible corporate citizen and jeopardizes our ability to compete in the global marketplace.