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Report Finds Massive Pollution in the Peruvian Amazon Years After Oxy and Pluspetrol “Remediation”

Serious Questions Raised About Negligence by
Argentine Oil Company

Lima, Peru – A new report by a team of experts finds that crude oil and toxic waste pits left behind by Occidental Petroleum’s (OXY) operations in the Corrientes region of the Peruvian Amazon continue to contaminate the environment and present a serious health risk to local Achuar indigenous communities. The report also finds that the recent remediation operation by current operator, Argentine-based Pluspetrol, has been insufficient despite the intention of the company and the Peruvian government to declare the remediation work complete.

“The report leaves no room for doubt. Oxy’s massive industrial pollution of the region continues to threaten the Achuar people living in block 1-AB and Pluspetrol’s remediation has been entirely inadequate,” said Gregor MacLennan, Amazon Watch Peru Program Coordinator. “The Peruvian Government must withhold its approval on the remediation operation until there is adequate cleanup."

The report was published by E-Tech International, a non-profit technical consultancy firm from the US, that visited and sampled four contaminated sites and found heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and hydrocarbons at levels above what is considered safe by US and Peruvian standards.

In response to the report’s resounding conclusions, as well as signs that Pluspetrol is preparing to declare an end to the remediation process, the Achuar indigenous organization FECONACO demanded that Pluspetrol and the Peruvian Government provide an explanation as to why clean-up operations are winding down.

“Pollution from oil-spills still exists in many sites that have not been properly cleaned. When it rains, the oil runs down and contaminates the rivers and streams where the people source their food,” said Guevara Sandi Chimboras, an Achuar leader who has worked as an environmental monitor investigating contamination in the region.

OXY faces an ongoing lawsuit for harming the health and environment of the native Achuar people who live on the Corrientes River in oil block 1-AB, operated by OXY between 1971 and 2000. During 30 years of operations OXY, using practices long outlawed in the U.S., pumped millions of barrels of production waters into the rivers and dumped toxic waste in unlined earthen pits. In 2000, Occidental transferred its aging and substandard production facility to the current operator, Pluspetrol, and signed a deal leaving Pluspetrol to clean up the damage.

After blockades and protests by the Achuar in 2006, which shut down oil production for 13 days, Pluspetrol was forced to commit to upgrading OXY’s aging infrastructure and began to re-inject production waters. Despite this significant advance, the report demonstrates that Pluspetrol has failed to clean up OXY’s toxic legacy. Today heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and hydrocarbons continue to be present in the environment and pose a continued risk to the Achuar people’s health.

“We call upon OXY to face up to their moral and legal responsibility to fund an adequate cleanup of their toxic mess in block 1-AB, to compensate thousands of Achuar who have suffered profound harm, and to ensure the Achuar have access to modern health care to treat any medical conditions which OXY has contributed to or created over the years,” said Atossa Soltani, Executive Director of Amazon Watch.

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Amazon Watch works to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. We partner with indigenous and environmental organizations in campaigns for human rights, corporate accountability and the preservation

Chevron Fears CRUDE’s Box Office Success
by Chevron

Sept. 15, 2009

Chevron’s Board of Directors Urged to Investigate Management’s Role in the Attempted Bribery Scheme

San Francisco, CA – CRUDE, the new documentary about the $27 billion lawsuit against Chevron opened in New York last week with the highest grossing film per-screen in the US. The film’s success and high profile has provoked increasingly desperate tactics from Chevron, including the release of a purported bribery scandal video in an attempt to confuse the public and delay the legal proceedings in the 16-year trial. In response, Amazon Watch sent a letter to Chevron’s board urging for a board-level probe into management’s legally questionable tactics.

“With the release of the film CRUDE, Chevron goes on trial in the court of public opinion. Despite Chevron’s current attempts to obstruct justice in Ecuador and confuse the public with misinformation, CRUDE allows the audience to judge for themselves how much responsibility Chevron bears for the ecological and public health crisis in the Ecuadorian Amazon,” said Mitchell Anderson, Corporate Accountability Campaigner for the Amazon Watch.

In press reports Chevron spokesperson Kent Robertson attacked the film as being “long on emotions and short on facts” even though he nor anyone else at Chevron has actually confirmed seeing the film. Acclaimed filmmaker Joe Berlinger called Robertson’s claims “outlandish”, pointing out that “the film goes to great lengths to give as much attention to the positions of each of the opposing parties in this landmark case as is possible in a featured length documentary.”

CRUDE is a high-stakes David vs. Goliath legal drama with 30,000 Amazon rainforest dwellers facing down the 5th largest corporation in the world for the dumping of 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater and abandoning over 900 unlined crude oil pits in the midst of rainforest communities.

CRUDE shows the truth that Chevron doesn't want the world to see," said Atossa Soltani, Executive Director of Amazon Watch. "The film is a balanced look at all sides of this monumental case but in the end, Chevron clearly emerges as the guilty party. As CRUDE continues to pack theaters, the pressure for Chevron to be held accountable in Ecuador will surely grow.”

Timed with CRUDE’s release, Chevron unveiled spy videos showing a purported $ 3 million bribery scheme in Ecuador, in which a former Chevron contractor and American businessman attempt to initiate a $3 million bribery scheme. However, the incident has raised serious questions company’s own role in the operation to entrap Ecuadorian officials. This week, Amazon Watch sent letters to members of Chevron’s Board of Directors urging them to take all appropriate actions to investigate Chevron management and legal team’s involvement in the bribery scandal.

The letters were sent days after Ecuador’s Attorney General Washington Pesantez publicly demanded an open investigation into Chevron’s involvement in spy camera videos.

In a letter sent to Chevron Board of Directors, Amazon Watch questions the legality of Chevron actions in the bribery scheme:

“The conduct of Chevron's management and legal teams has raised numerous questions as to Chevron's role in the bribery scheme and may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, exposing Chevron to significant legal liability, of the sort that Chevron recently paid the U.S. Department of Justice $30 million to settle.”

“As an independent member of the Chevron's Board of Directors, you have a fiduciary duty to act to ensure that Chevron's management continues to act in the best interest of your shareholders and investors… we expect that you will take all appropriate action to correct the misconduct and publicize the activity to shareholders.”

Chevron is accused of inhibiting a full investigation into the bribery scheme. For over two months, the company failed to turn over evidence of potentially criminal behavior, and they continue to hide the two key players in the spy tapes, Diego Borja and Wayne Hansen.

“Chevron has spent two months planning a public relations ‘Hail Mary’. If an investigation was Chevron’s intention, then it should have begun two months ago. Instead we have seen nothing but a carefully orchestrated media campaign,” said Mitch Anderson, Corporate Accountability Campaigner for Amazon Watch. “It’s time for Chevron’s Board to take this situation by the reins, continued Anderson. “Chevron executives and legal team have mishandled every aspect of the lawsuit and now find themselves having to defend a bribery scandal. There is a responsibility to shareholders that is not being met.”

Amazon Watch is running a national campaign to promote CRUDE. The film will premiere in Los Angeles on September 17 at a special screening, followed by runs in San Francisco, and forty more cities. CRUDE continues in New York City through September 22nd.

The full text of the letter sent to Chevron’s Board can be found at: http://chevrontoxico.com/assets/docs/20090915-board-letter.pdf

For more information about Amazon Watch’s campaign, visit: www.ChevronToxico.com/crude

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Amazon Watch works to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. We partner with indigenous and environmental organizations in campaigns for human rights, corporate accountability and the preservation of the Amazon's ecological systems. Amazon Watch’s Clean Up Ecuador Campaign has been providing critical support to the affected communities in their pursuit of justice and environment cleanup.

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