18 Feb 2005

ChevronTexaco Asks Court to Reject Plaintiffs' Report on Sacha-53

Plaintiffs' Report is "Worthless Fiction" Riddled With Technical Errors, Significant Omissions and False Claims

Court Filing Details Plaintiffs' Blatant Disregard for Judges Orders and Deliberate Attempts to "Fool the Court"

QUITO, Ecuador, February 18, 2005 - ChevronTexaco has formally asked the Superior Court in Nueva Loja to reject the technical report filed by the plaintiffs' expert on the inspection of the Sacha-53 because it is replete with "very serious technical errors, significant omissions, and opinions that lack scientific credibility," the company said today.

In its rebuttal of the plaintiffs' technical report, ChevronTexaco told the court, "The assertions, claims and conclusions presented in the report of engineer Edison Camino are wrong. The report presents findings without scientific evidentiary support, misapplies standards and misuses technical and scientific information either intentionally or out of gross incompetence. The results and descriptions made by Camino about the conditions of the Sacha-53 wellsite are false, and should not be considered by the Superior Court of Nueva Loja." Further, the report states: "...[I]t appears evident that Camino has tried to distort the facts, and fool the Court and the public about site conditions at Sacha 53. The report is littered with contradictions. Although Camino claims the contrary, the evidence and laboratory data presented by Camino demonstrates that no additional remediation is necessary and that the concentrations that exist are below the appropriate criteria for public health"

Ricardo Reis Veiga, vice president general counsel, Latin America Products for ChevronTexaco, said, "The technical report on the Sacha-53 site submitted by the plaintiffs' expert can be summed up in two words: 'worthless fiction.' Plaintiffs' allege that strong concentrations of heavy metals exist in the soil, yet what they're pointing to is no different from naturally occurring levels of metals that are found in anyone's back yard. They claim that their samples show that Texpet didn't remediate its sites, when in actual fact they did not analyze samples taken from those sites. They claim that the Sacha-53 site has harmful chemicals such as benzene that can cause health impacts, when their own laboratory data clearly demonstrates that these chemicals are not present. The list goes on and on. The findings we submitted in our report today detail how the plaintiffs' expert acted in an irresponsible and scientifically unsound manner, which is why we've asked the Superior Court to dismiss the report's findings."

Following is a list of the more serious errors chronicled in the report, an executive summary of which is available at the Ecuador Judicial Site Inspections Web site.

  • Irresponsible Use of Analytical Data
    Plaintiffs' technician Edison Camino displays "scientific irresponsibility" by falsely alleging that substances such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX), as well as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are present in soils at the site, when his own lab results show the opposite: These chemicals were not detected. According to the report, "Camino can't distinguish between 'detected substances' and 'non-detected substances'" - an error that led to irresponsible claims about toxic chemicals present at the site.
  • Ignorance of Basic Knowledge About Naturally Occurring Metals in Soil
    Plaintiffs' technician revealed his basic ignorance of basic soil composition - or a desire to fool the Court and the public- by failing to mention that the concentrations of metals detected in the soils were typical of the natural ranges that occur throughout the world and instead stating that they were the product of contamination.
  • Deliberate Sampling of Wrong Sites; Failure to Analyze Texpet Remediated Sites
    Plaintiffs' technician irresponsibly used samples taken from soils outside of Texpet's area of responsibility - from areas clearly within Petroecuador's responsibility - and misled the Court by claiming that he was reporting about the soil conditions of pits actually remediated by Texpet. By using these wrong results to make false inferences, and by failing to analyze samples taken from pits actually remediated by Texpet, plaintiffs' technician acted in a highly "irresponsible manner." Plaintiff's technician did sampled pits remediated by Texpet but for some unknown reason did not report the results for those samples.
  • Irresponsible Accusations About Threat to Public Health
    In an accusation that is irresponsible, ignores basic principles of evaluating risks to health and is a clear attempt to "disorient the Court," plaintiffs' technician creates the false inference that the simple presence of a chemical should be considered as a threat to public health when the facts do not support that claim. When citing information from the "Agency for Toxic Substances and Registry of Sickness in the United States" (ATSDR) to support his claim, Camino omitted the most important part: "risk can only occur if the substance is present in sufficiently high concentrations, and if the means exist by which people can be exposed to it." Neither the laboratory results nor the evaluation of site conditions show that these conditions are present at the SA-53 site.
  • Incorrect Sampling Methods
    Incorrect sampling methods employed by Camino's team resulted in contaminating the source from which samples were taken, thus giving a false impression that contamination exists far below the surface. Camino's team also improperly collected water samples from open holes, falsely representing that these mud samples represented "groundwater samples," eliminating any notion of validity of the results.
  • Failure to Follow Court-Ordered Chain of Custody Procedures
    In a direct violation of Court order, chain of custody forms that track and confirm the time frames and manner in which samples are handled from the point at which they are taken from the ground until they reach the lab, weren't properly filled out, thereby casting overwhelming doubts on their integrity. According ChevronTexaco's expert report, this omission is "extremely serious, an error that a prudent and experienced scientist wouldn't commit" because it is now impossible to determine whether or not the samples were analyzed within the time and conditions required by Court-approved analytical methods.
  • Inappropriate Use of Evaluation Criteria
    Plaintiffs' report ignored Judge Novillo's instruction to evaluate the remediation techniques employed by Texpet at the sites under standards that applied during the time in which Texpet conducted its remediation. Plaintiffs' technician used incorrect criteria to make false accusations that there are environmental and health impacts at the sites remediated by Texpet at Sacha-53. In fact, all of the chemical data reported by plaintiffs' technician came in at levels below criteria established by the Government of Ecuador available during 1995-1998 and also well below international criteria during 1995-98, the years in which the remediation was conducted.
  • Misleading and Inaccurate Comparisons
    In yet another blatant attempt to confuse Court and public opinion, Plaintiffs' report alleges that produced water discharged after the sites were remediated contain toxic concentrations of chemical substances. They arrived at this erroneous conclusion by comparing concentrations of produced water reported then, with standards used in Ecuador for drinking water - an illogical and irresponsible comparison that has no scientific or legal validity.
  • False Allegations About Existence and Potential Health Impact of Chemicals
    Plaintiffs' report also falsely alleges that Hexvalent Chromium is a contaminant in the soils as a result of Spersene, an ingredient in drilling mud. Not only are the levels of this Hexavalent Chromium comparable with those found in the United States, the country with arguably the most rigorous health standards, they are approximately 150 times lower than the criteria used to protect human health when Texpet remediated the sies in the 1990s. Furthermore, Hexvalent Chromium isn't actually found in Spersene; Trivalente chromium is, and detected levels were very small.

When plaintiffs' first issued their report on Sacha-53 back in December, Maria Remmert, a former environmental regulator for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and Texas Railroad Commission and board-certified toxicologist independently reviewed the report and confirmed many of the findings contained in the rebuttal filed with the Court today. Remmert said, "The report issued by the plaintiffs is technically inaccurate, incomplete, and grossly misleading, because their data clearly do not support their claims," said "If this document had been presented to me during the eight years that I served as an environmental regulator in Texas, I would have rejected the report and directed the author to resubmit it after correcting its many incorrect and misleading statements and presumptions."

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