A team of prominent Chevron lobbyists are again misleading the U.S. Trade Representative as part of a campaign to retaliate against Ecuador’s government for refusing to interfere in a private environmental lawsuit against the oil giant, representatives of Amazonian communities say.
The controversy concerns a petition recently submitted by Chevron to Ron Kirk, the newly confirmed USTR ambassador and former Mayor of Dallas, asking that trade preferences for Ecuador be canceled because Ecuador’s President has not quashed a private class action lawsuit brought by 30,000 rainforest residents in Ecuador’s courts. The 15-year-old case, which was transferred to Ecuador from U.S. federal court in 2002 at Chevron’s request, is expected to conclude this year with a multi-billion dollar judgment against the oil giant.
A loss of trade preferences for Ecuador would cost the country 350,000 jobs in a country with a total population of 12 million, according to Ecuador’s government.
A court-appointed team of technical experts in Ecuador recently assessed damages against Chevron at up to $27 billion, a possible record for an environmental case. Chevron is accused of dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways over a 26-year period, leading to a dramatic increase in cancer, decimating indigenous groups, and despoiling an area of ecosystem the size of Rhode Island.
Chevron’s high-powered lobbyists on the issue include Mack McLarty, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton; former Senators John Breaux and Trent Lott; Wayne Berman, who served as the national finance chair for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign; and several members of the company’s government relations staff in Washington.
Several months ago, a Chevron lobbyist created a major stir by being quoted anonymously in Newsweek as saying, in regard to Chevron’s potential environmental liability in Ecuador: “We can’t let little countries screw around with big companies like this — companies that have made big investments around the world.”
Amazon Defence Coalition