Petroecuador's Responsibility for Ecuadorian Amazon
"River Tiputini Contaminated by Petroproduction" a division of Petroecuador
The U.S. attorneys bringing the lawsuit against Chevron are pointing the finger of responsibility in the wrong direction, blatantly ignoring the well-established fact that state-owned Petroecuador is responsible for the current state of oil operations in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
State-Owned Oil Company Controlled All Operating and Budgetary Decisions
Contrary to plaintiffs' attorney's claims that Chevron's subsidiary Texaco Petroleum Company (Texpet) controlled the oil development operation, Petroecuador, as majority partner of the consortium, and as a party to the Napo Joint Operating Agreement, exercised significant control over the operations. This means that Petroecuador participated in all major decisions relating to equipment, technology and production methods.
Petroecuador's Unfulfilled Cleanup Responsibility
From 1995 through 1998 Texpet spent over $40 million to remediate a portion of the oil production sites in the former concession area consistent with its minority interest in the consortium with Petroecuador. As majority owner of the consortium, and consistent with remediation and settlement agreements entered into by the Government of Ecuador, Petroecuador assumed responsibility for the remainder of these sites. Nevertheless, Petroecuador has neither accounted for the completion of its remediation responsibilities, nor answered for ongoing pollution at sites where it has been the sole operator since 1990.
Despite being made aware of Petroecuador's unfulfilled obligations, plaintiff's attorneys have aggressively pursued claims against Chevron for over a decade and have yet to file any claims against Petroecuador, thereby ignoring more legitimate avenues of relief.
Petroecuador's Legacy of Substandard Operations
Petroecuador, the sole operator of the former oil concession over the last 17 years has grievously failed to fulfill its remediation obligations, operating the oil fields in a manner that has caused numerous environmental problems.
Despite assuming responsibility for its share of the consortium's remediation obligations, Petroecuador delayed any meaningful clean-up activities on its part:
"For over 30 years Petroecuador has done absolutely nothing to remediate those pits under its responsibility."- Energy Minister Manuel Muñoz, Director of National Environmental Protection Management, Ministry of Energy, in an appearance before Congress on May 10, 2006
Meanwhile, Petroecuador allowed equipment, infrastructure and operations to deteriorate:
"There is a very serious problem regarding the pipelines, regarding all transmission systems-both of oil as well as of derivatives-which have mostly become obsolete because the budget is not adequate to replace them. Mr. President, this is one of the most important sources of contamination because their useful life has come to an end and they have not been replaced, so spills occur. This is one of the most important causes of spills we face now; in addition to this, we have to take into consideration that there is contamination due to attacks to the pipeline." Energy Minister Muñoz
According to Petroecuador's own data, the company has been responsible for a total of 801 spills between 1990 and 2004, with a total spill volume of 1.9 million gallons.
- According to more recent publicly available information, Petroecuador has recorded 882 oil spills from 2002 to 2006 alone.
- Newspapers in Ecuador have reported cumulative Petroecuador oil spill volumes as being greater than 3.2 million gallons of crude oil from 1990-2005.
- Of 325 spills (impacting 2.1 million square meters) recorded by Petroecuador in 2003 and 2004, 150 spills did not get cleaned up at all, due to lack of funds (El Universo, 10 January 2006). The same article reports that Petroecuador averaged 20 spills per month for the first half of 2005.
No matter whose data is used, Peteroecuador has a demonstrated and atrocious environmental record and is responsible for the conditions of the Oriente over the past 15 years.
Regardless, plaintiffs' attorneys and the activist groups that support them persist in filling their publicity materials with images of current Petroecuador operations that they claim offer proof of Texpet's poor environmental stewardship from over 15 years ago.
Petroecuador's Responsibility in the Chevron Lawsuit is Clear
Texpet completed a comprehensive and effective remediation program consistent with its minority interest in the consortium. In 1998, the Government of Ecuador released the company from any and all future claims and liabilities related to environmental impact. Petroecuador has neither offered an accounting of its responsibility, nor answered for ongoing pollution at sites that it has managed since 1990. If plaintiffs' attorneys are truly interested in delivering justice to their clients, they should start by looking in the right direction.
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