20 Apr 2007

For Seventh Time, Court Will Try to Inspect Laboratory Used by Plaintiffs' in Suit Against Chevron

Chevron Calls on Plaintiffs' Attorneys to Stop Obstructing Justice; Inspection Scheduled for April 24

Nueva Loja, April 20, 2007 - On April 24, 2007 a judge will make a seventh attempt to inspect the laboratory being used by the plaintiffs' nominated experts in the ongoing environmental trial against Chevron Corporation. On six prior occasions, lawyers representing both the plaintiffs and the Havoc Laboratory in Quito blocked the Civil Court of Pichincha from carrying out the inspection of the laboratory, including locking its doors, which is a direct violation of a Court order.

The Special Judicial Inspection was requested by Chevron to determine if the Havoc Laboratory is capable of accurately performing the technical and scientific analysis for the plaintiffs' nominated experts. The inspection was originally ordered by the Civil Court of Pichincha in February 2006 after Chevron noted to the Court that the laboratory was not properly accredited by the Ecuadorian Accreditation Organization (OAE) to perform the necessary analyses required in the environmental trial against Chevron. Chevron had advised the Superior Court of Lago Agrio that the analytical reports produced by the Havoc Laboratory appeared to be inaccurate and misleading.

"The continued efforts by the plaintiffs' attorneys and their supporters to block this inspection is a clear case of obstruction of justice and defiance of existing Court orders," said Ricardo Reis Veiga, Managing Counsel for Chevron Latin America." These actions reveal the extent of their desperation to hide the truth from the Court. For some time we have believed that the Havoc Laboratory is not qualified to conduct the analysis required to produce legitimate scientific results. These deliberate and continued efforts to prevent an Ecuadorian Judge from inspecting the laboratory facilities and procedures simply reinforce our beliefs that can only point to one thing - that the technical analyses presented by the plaintiffs' nominated experts are seriously flawed.

Sara McMillen, Chevron's senior scientific advisor, said "Havoc Laboratory lacks the credentials required to correctly perform all of the necessary analyses for the Judicial Inspections. Their recent partial accreditation (January, 2007) is still not complete and all of the plaintiffs judicial inspection reports filed to date contain analyses performed without the necessary laboratory accreditation. This may account for the fact that the laboratory has produced inconsistent, and in some cases, wildly implausible results. Conducting the analysis in accordance with accepted scientific standards is the only way for legitimate results to be produced in a transparent and credible manner."

Plaintiffs' Attorneys' Repeated Attempts to Obstruct Justice

The Superior Court in Nueva Loja ordered judicial inspections of oil production sites of the former Petroecuador-Texpet Consortium to determine the environmental conditions and the effectiveness of the remediation work conducted by Texaco Petroleum Company ("Texpet") in accordance with its agreement with the government of Ecuador and Petroecuador. The order called for experts nominated by the parties to evaluate the environmental conditions at the sites by taking water and soil samples to be analyzed by a qualified laboratory and the results to be submitted to the Court.

At the start of the judicial inspection process in 2004, the plaintiffs' attorneys initially contracted with Catolica University in Quito for the required laboratory analysis, but subsequently switched to Havoc Laboratory in January 2005 without explanation.

Plaintiffs' attorneys and their supporters subsequently sought to block the Court from inspecting the Havoc Laboratory on six separate occasions:

  • On February 17, the Civil Judge of Pichincha, Dr. Germán González del Pozo, went to the Laboratory on the day of the officially scheduled inspection only to find its doors locked and access to the lab's facilities denied.
  • On March 21, 2006, Judge González returned to Havoc Laboratories to once again find its doors locked, and his access denied.
  • On March 30, 2006, when Judge González was about to leave the Court House to conduct the Inspection of Havoc Laboratories, plaintiffs' lawyers intercepted him with "an order to desist and abstain."
  • On May 31, 2006, a few hours before the next scheduled inspection, lawyers representing Havoc, together with the plaintiffs' attorneys, presented the Judge with a petition of several hundred pages requesting the suspension of the inspection.
  • On August 28, 2006 three days before the reset inspection date the Judge requested both parties to appoint the experts for the Inspection. Plaintiffs failed to appoint an expert, and, therefore, once again the Judge was forced to cancel the inspection.
  • The inspection was rescheduled for October 23. However, a few days prior to this date, Havoc Laboratories' legal representatives filed a Recusal Claim in an effort to remove the judge and force suspension of the Inspection.

"Chevron insists that the Court inspects the Havoc Laboratory in Quito in order to verify whether or not it is qualified to perform the analytical work required by the Court for the judicial inspections. We are confident that we will prevail in this litigation and plaintiffs' evasive tactics will not undermine the overwhelming evidence that Texpet met its obligations in Ecuador. Laboratory results from the first 45 judicial site inspections demonstrate that the company carried out an effective remediation program and there is no risk to human health or the environment resulting from Texpet's former operations," concluded Veiga.

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