Environmental and Health Claims

The science is clear – The overwhelming body of credible scientific evidence presented to the Ecuadorian Court from more than three years of judicial inspections demonstrates that the people of the Oriente region face no significant oil-related health risk from the areas remediated by TexPet.

Palanda 03, PIT 2

Read More About Environmental Claims

Produced Water ≠ Toxic Waste

Plaintiffs' Myths

Read More About Health Claims

The Question of Health

The Question of Genocide

Plaintiff's Health Myths

Important Findings

Site Inspection Results

The plaintiffs have suggested that Ecuadorians did not care about their environment because they had few environmental requirements.

Texaco Petroleum Company, a subsidiary of Texaco, entered the region in 1964. At that time, the rigorous environmental regulations we have today did not exist anywhere in the world, including in the U.S. However, Texaco was firmly committed to the protection of people and the environment in those areas where we operated. As such, the 1964 Texaco-Gulf Concession Agreement with the Government of Ecuador established requirements for the protection of workers and the environment.

In 1992, a detailed review of Ecuador's petroleum laws and regulations and petroleum industry practices in tropical rainforests enacted from 1964 to 1992 was prepared by Fugro-McClelland, an internationally recognized consulting firm. Below is a synopsis of that report, in addition to key consortium operational standards:

  • 1964 - The Texaco-Gulf consortium establishes requirements for protection of workers and the environment in the original Concession Agreement.
  • 1971 - Ecuador passes the Hydrocarbon Law, Decree 1459, requiring oil producers to adopt all necessary measures for the protection of the flora and fauna and other natural resources, and to prevent the pollution of water, the atmosphere and land. The law further prohibits wasting natural gas by releasing it into the atmosphere or burning it without authorization from the Ministry of the Area.
  • 1973 - The Government of Ecuador signs the Contract with Texaco-Gulf, Decree 925, which requires measures for protecting the flora, fauna, and other natural resources as well as the avoidance of pollution of waters, the atmosphere and land under the control of the State agencies. The contract further states that natural gas may not be wasted by releasing it into the atmosphere or burning it without prior written approval from the Ministry of the Area except for cases of force majeure.
  • 1973 - Texaco Petroleum Company develops the Trans-Ecuadorian Pipeline System Oil Spill Control Manual.
  • 1974 - Ecuador enacts the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Exploitation Regulations, Decree 530, which requires the operator to take all necessary measures and precautions to avoid damages or injuries to persons, properties, natural resources and locations of religious, archaeological or tourist interest. The law further requires the prevention of the escape and waste of hydrocarbons in order to avoid loss, damage and pollution. Additionally, the law requires that an operator propose to the Ministry the appropriate form of disposal of salt water, drilling mud, oil samples or other elements that may cause damage to flora and fauna.
  • 1976 - Ecuador enacts the Law on Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution, Decree 374, which made it illegal to not observe the corresponding technical standards and regulations for the prevention and control of both water and soil pollution. The law also requires the submittal of studies on environmental impact and measure of control to the Minister of Health for approval by public or private institutions that implement industrial projects.
  • 1978 - Ecuador passes a Codification of the Hydrocarbon Law, Decree 2967, which requires adoption of necessary measures to protect flora, fauna and other natural resources and to avoid polluting the water, the atmosphere and the land. Furthermore, the law states that contractors or associates may not waste natural gas by releasing it into the atmosphere or burning it without authorization from the Ministry of the Area.
  • 1982 - Ecuador passes the Reform to the Hydrocarbon Law, Decree 101, which requires Petroecuador (Ecuador's state oil company) and its contractors or associated companies in exploration, refining, transportation and marketing of petroleum to perform operations as per the Laws and Regulations to protect the environment.
  • 1983 - Ecuador enacts a Model Service Contract for Exploration and Exploitation of Hydrocarbon, Decree 1779, which states that contractors must operate in a manner which preserves natural resources and must adopt measures necessary to protect the flora, fauna and avoid polluting the air, water and soil.
  • 1989 - Ecuador passes the Regulation for the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution Related to Water Resources, Decree 2144 or 204, which calls for the prevention of water pollution from industrial sources. Industrial discharges are to be identified, characterized and monitored in accordance with specified criteria. The regulation includes a 27-month timetable for achieving compliance. The law states that users who explore, extract, refine, transform, process, transport or store hydrocarbons or substances harmful to human health or bioaquatic resources shall prepare and implement a contingency plan for the prevention and control of spills. The plan must be approved by the quality control agency.
  • 1991 - The Oil Industry International Exploration and Production Forum issues formal guidelines for operating in tropical rainforests.
  • 1992 - Ecuador enacts Environmental Regulations for Hydrocarbon Activity in the National Territory which requires presentation of an Environmental Impact Plan and Environmental Management Plan for petroleum exploration to the Direccion Nacional de Medio Ambiente (National Management Office of the Environment) - Office of the Undersecretary of the Environment of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, for approval and monitoring. The law also expands spill contingency planning and waste handling requirements.

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Produced Water is not toxic waste

The plaintiffs claim that Texaco Petroleum dumped tens of millions of gallons of toxic waste-water into the Ecuadorian Amazon - this is outright fabrication and distortion of the facts.

One of the plaintiffs' attorneys' most-repeated claims is that "Produced water contains some of the most toxic and dangerous chemicals known to man." and that Texpet illegally dumped 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into the rainforest, equating it to an environmental disaster 30 times greater that the Exxon Valdez spill. TexPet strongly denies this allegation.

Produced water is not considered "toxic waste" in the United States nor in any other part of the world. Rather, it is the brackish water that is trapped within the geologic formations that contain crude oil and brought to the surface during oil production. A separation process was used to remove the oil from the water. Once the oil was separated from the water and treated, the water was then discharged into nearby rivers and streams, a process used today in Ecuador and in other parts of the world. As to the impact of this process, the mountain of scientific evidence presented to the courts show:

  • Greater than 99 percent of all drinking water samples tested are free of harmful levels of petroleum related chemicals, exceeding World Health Organization and USEPA standards.
  • Greater than 99 percent of all soil samples collected from TexPet-remediated areas confirm that the remediation was effective
  • Of additional interest, sites tested show high levels of bacterial contamination from human or animal waste (not related to oil operations) were found in 90% of drinking water samples from the judicial inspections, indicating widespread microbial contamination of the water sources. According to World Health Organization (WHO): "The potential health consequences of microbial contamination are such that its control must always be of paramount importance and must never be compromised."

The science is clear - The overwhelming body of credible scientific evidence presented to the Ecuadorian Court from two years of judicial inspections demonstrates that the people of the Oriente region face no significant oil-related health risk from the areas remediated by TexPet. In fact, some of the world's leading epidemiologists and medical and scientific experts have reviewed the studies used by the plaintiffs to support their claims and each expert independently concluded that they are flawed, biased and inconclusive. The studies' own authors acknowledge that they do not establish a causal link, and that there are many other non-oil related factors known to have caused health problems in the region.

Surprisingly, the plaintiffs have never once analyzed any produced water for BTEX - some of the potentially harmful elements they refer to - as part of the judicial inspection process in order to substantiate their allegations. Plaintiffs did analyze two produced water samples for PAHs (other harmful elements that the plaintiffs refer to) and found that they were not detected in produced water.

Further, in a lie of omission, the plaintiffs' attorneys fail to mention that, consistent with Ecuador regulations of the time and with industry practices still in use in many places in the world today, Texpet separated out the crude oil and treated the produced water before safely discharging it into the environment. Because it was water rather than pure crude oil that was discharged, comparisons to the Exxon Valdez are nothing more than lies designed to mislead the public and the court.

To put the facts into further perspective, the average annual volume of produced water discharged by Texpet in Ecuador is equivalent to 1.7% of the total volume of water discharged onshore in the United States in 1985.

Accepting for the sake of argument that injection is now seen as a preferred method of managing produced water in Ecuador, it is ironic to note that Petroecuador has discharged more produced water in the Oriente in the last 16 years than Texpet did throughout its entire operations in Ecuador. Petroecuador has discharged more than 12 billion gallons of produced water since 1992.

While plaintiffs' attorneys try their best to extrapolate the data, the fact is they can offer no credible data to support their claim. Even their own test results from the judicial inspections prove them wrong: The plaintiff's technicians analyzed 3 produced water samples for TPH during the Judicial Inspections and even using their inappropriate analytical method which overestimates TPH levels, they reported levels of 0.1 (Aguarico station, EAG-AWT-AF1), 1.6 (LA-Norte Station, LAN-TAN-RE-AF), and 24 (SSF-Sur, SSF-SUR-JI-PWU) mg oil per liter of water, rather than the 2% or 20,000 mg oil per liter of water that they claim is present.

The plaintiffs claim that the process used by Texaco Petroleum and Ecuador's state owned oil company, Petroecuador, to handle produced water is not done anywhere in the world. They say that since the early 1950's, the industry standard for handling produced water is to re-inject it into the ground.

Examples of oil producing nations that today allow the discharge of produced water rather than injection into the ground are the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Kuwait, Angola and Nigeria, along with Ecuador. In California, one of the most environmentally sensitive states in the U.S., local farmers use produced water from nearby oil fields to irrigate their crops. The often drought-stricken San Joaquin Valley needs the water to grow the millions of pounds of food it supplies annually to the U.S. and other parts of the world.

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Health Claims

Plaintiffs' attorneys and activist groups inaccurately attribute virtually every health problem in the Oriente region to oil production activities. In fact, of the credible scientific evidence presented in the Ecuador court proceedings to date:

  • Greater than 99 percent of all drinking water samples tested are free of harmful levels of petroleum related chemicals, exceeding World Health Organization and USEPA standards.
  • Greater than 99 percent of all soil samples collected from Texaco Petroleum Company-remediated areas confirm that the remediation met the standards set by the Government of Ecuador and that the remediated areas pose no significant risk to human health.

The science is clear - The overwhelming body of credible scientific evidence presented to the Ecuadorian Court from two years of judicial inspections demonstrates that the people of the Oriente region face no significant oil-related health risk from the areas remediated by TexPet.

Indeed, some of the world's leading epidemiologists and medical and scientific experts have reviewed the studies used by the plaintiffs to support their claims and each expert independently concluded that they are flawed, biased and inconclusive.

Researchers working in concert with plaintiffs' attorneys and environmental activists have put forward studies with statistics and claims that the historical impacts of Texpet's former operations have caused a high incidence of various diseases. However, none of these studies rises to the level of cause-and-effect research. In fact, the studies' own authors acknowledge that they do not establish a causal link, and that there are many other non-oil related factors known to have caused health problems in the region.

Dr. Laura Green is one of the leading toxicologists in the United States - a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology and lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a sworn deposition in Ecuador, she said: "With regard to alleged adverse health effects of the oil operations per se, many of the studies provide little to no evidence of health impacts, and are further compromised by uncertainties, flaws, data gaps and instances of over-interpretation of very limited data."1

It is well documented that the people of the Oriente experience numerous health problems, because of naturally occurring bacteria, poor sanitation, and limited access to medical care. The scientific data analyzed discovered that high levels of bacterial contamination from human or animal waste (not from oil) were present in 90% of drinking water samples from the judicial inspections, indicating widespread microbial contamination of the water sources. But there is no credible scientific evidence to suggest a relationship between health problems and Texaco Petroleum Company's (TexPet) operations in the Oriente, which ended in 1990.

What plaintiffs' attorneys have chosen to ignore is what many international development agencies and NGO's recognize: The primary causes of disease in the Oriente are poverty, poor sanitation, naturally occurring bacteria and parasites, a lack of access to clean water, and insufficient infrastructure. These factors contribute to health problems in the region in several ways, including:

  • Inadequate sanitation and sewage systems that result in frequent exposure to infectious parasites and bacteria-related disease
  • Water contaminated from biological sources and harmful pesticides
  • Chronic malnutrition and serious vitamin deficiencies
  • Inadequate housing that increases likelihood of contact with infectious insects
  • Lack of access to medical facilities
  • Lack of trained health care workers

It is both irresponsible and inaccurate for the plaintiffs to ignore these well-documented conditions and instead point exclusively to oil production as the cause of any health concerns.

1 Deposition of Dr. Laura Green before the Superior Court of Justice in Nueva Loja, Ecuador, June 30, 2004.

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