The Dubious Lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador - Part 1

[Editor's note by Super G] The Oil Drum staff consists of a diverse set of voices. The story that follows is one staff member's perspective. Other perspectives on this case may be posted in the future.

Recently, a fraudulent lawsuit against Dole was dismissed. According to the WSJ,

Court cases get dismissed all the time, but rarely are dismissals as significant as the two lawsuits against Dole Food and other companies that were tossed recently by a California judge. Among other good things, the ruling is a setback for tort lawyers who troll abroad seeking dubious claims to bring in U.S. courts.

The allegations against Dole, the world's largest fruit and vegetable producer, involved banana plantation workers in Nicaragua who alleged that exposure to the pesticide DBPC in the 1970s left them sterile. The only problem is that most of the plaintiffs had not worked at plantations and weren't sterile. In fact, there's no evidence that farm workers at Dole facilities were exposed to harmful levels of the chemical -- which was legal and widely used at the time -- or that the level of exposure they did experience even causes sterility.

I recently visited Ecuador, as a guest of Chevron. Based on what I learned during that visit, it seems to me that the suit against Chevron has a fair number of similarities to the Dole suit. In this post, I will explain why I think the Chevron case is as dubious as the Dole case.

The Chevron case has gotten widespread publicity in the US, as a result of publicity by the Amazon Defense Front, or, as it is known in the US, the Amazon Defense Coalition. If the plaintiffs win the case, the Amazon Defense Coalition (ADC) will be the recipients of any monies awarded. This is a photo of members of the ADC, assisting the allegedly "independent expert" in gathering soil samples for testing for the court. The independent expert is not in the photo shown below, although he is present in others in the series.

Figure 1. Click here for PDF with 18 similar photos

It seems to me that the Amazon lawsuit is filled with myths, misunderstandings, and out-and-out lies. Here are a few I have run across.

Myth 1. Pablo Fajardo, winner of the CNN hero award in 2007 and Goldman Environmental Prize is lead lawyer for the plaintiffs in the suit against Chevron.

It is certainly true that Pablo Fajardo is a lawyer for the case. Pablo Fajardo became a lawyer in 2004 after completing a correspondence law degree, and this is his first case ever. The question is whether he is really has been "spearheading the legal team for the plaintiffs for several years" as the article describing the Goldman award says, or is just a puppet, with other more experienced lawyers really in charge.

Who would these other lawyers be? The original lawyer when a similar case was brought in the US in 1993 was Cristóbal Bonifaz, a native Ecuadorian whose grandfather was president of the country in the 1930s. He is no longer on the case, but he was one of the leading lawyers when the case was first filed against Chevron in Ecuador in May 2003.

Another lawyer for the plaintiffs is Steven Donziger of New York. In a recent letter to the Econmist Magazine, he bills himself as "Lawyer representing Amazonian communities in legal action against Chevron". He has also been involved with the current suit in Ecuador since it was filed in 2003.

According to this article, Donsiger enlisted the help of the Philadelphia law firm of Kohn, Swift & Graf, which specializes in class-action suits. We also read on Kron, Swift, & Graf's web page:

Figure 2. Image from Kohn, Swift, and Graf website

So, in 2007, which is about the time when Fajardo was getting these awards, Kohn, Swift & Graf considered themselves "one of the lead plaintiffs' council" in the Amazon litigation.

We find others involved in the case as well. According to a July 2008 Newsweek article:

Just recently, Donziger and other trial lawyers in the case retained their own high-profile D.C. superlobbyist, Ben Barnes, a major Democratic fund-raiser. And they have tapped a capital connection that may pay off even more. Roughly two years ago, when Donziger first got wind that Chevron might take its case to Washington, he went to see Obama. The two were basketball buddies at Harvard Law School. In several meetings in Obama's office, Donziger showed his old friend graphic photos of toxic oil pits and runoffs. He also argued strongly that Chevron was trying to subvert the "rule of law" by doing an end run on an Ecuadoran legal case. Obama was "offended by that," said Donziger.

So there seem to be all kinds of high-profile folks involved in the case. We know that Ben Barnes is being paid by Kohn, Swift, & Graf, because his lobbying registration indicates that that is his employer.

Was Fajardo, on his first case after completing correspondence school for a law degree in 2004, really in charge? Maybe, maybe not.

Myth 2. The death of Pablo Fajardo's brother in 2004 was in some way connected to Texaco or Chevron.

These are a couple of typical quotes:

"In my case, in 2004 when we were starting the case, one of my brothers was killed. I cannot say Texaco is to be blamed for this, and neither can I say the opposite. This was never investigated. There have been a lot of things, a lot of pressure and persecution.” -- Pablo Fajardo, Ecuador TV, April 22, 2008

Fajardo affirmed that “in these 15 years we have received a lot of pressure, starting with threatening phone calls, and campaigns to damage the professional reputation of experts defending the FEDAM’S cause. Undoubtedly the most dramatic experience of these clashes is the death of Pablo Fajardo’s brother eight days prior to the beginning of the oral proceedings in this case. “I cannot prove Texaco was behind this, but the truth is my brother was killed,” said Fajardo. – Europa Press (Zaragoza), September 3, 2008

The death of Pablo's brother Wilson Fajardo most certainly has been investigated. There is no evidence whatsoever that Texaco was involved. Instead, it seems to an "execution" by FARC, related to drugs and the theft of "white gasoline" from pipelines for use in cocaine preparation. His brother was tortured and shot in the head at close range.

This is the complaint filed by Pablo Fajardo with the police at the time of his brother's death. At no point in the complaint does he mention Texaco. Instead, he asks that the friends who his brother had been drinking with that night be taken into protective custody.

This is an editorial from El Commercio talking about the 20 FARC deaths by hired assassins in the past year, which mentions Wilson Fajardo. He was a journalist working for Radio Ecuador, and seems to have offended FARC by talking about the link between drug trafficking and the theft of white gasoline.

There are numerous other documents available with respect to this case. These are a few (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 ). There are additional documents that are too large to be loaded on this server, including the forensics report, the police report, and the prosecutors' report. E-mail me at Gail Tverberg at comcast dot net if you would like these.

Myth 3. Chevron or Texaco has been harassing or intimidating Pablo Fajardo through threatening phone calls and break-ins to their office.

If the story of the death of Pablo's brother could be worked into an endless anti-Texaco publicity stunt, why not carry the whole process one step further? Accuse Texaco of threatening phone calls and break-ins. No one would ever be able to check these out. Letters to high level human rights organizations would be particularly impressive. According to an email I received from a contract at Chevron:

It is the same with their other public accusations [besides Wilson Fajardo death], which include attempted kidnapping and robbery, throughout this trial. In fact, in many of those purported cases they have not bothered to file police complaints, so there is actually no investigation. Instead, they have gone to the media or to international human rights groups with the sole intention of making false accusations to create the appearance of persecution without actually enduring any persecution whatsoever.

In each case that has been investigated you will find enormous holes. The robbery of computers, which they initialy blamed on Chevron personnel, were carried out by members of the FDA against their own technical team because their expert refused to submit a false report during the Judicial Inspections. The alleged "kidnapping" attempt against one of their family members was in fact a botched buglary attempt completely unrelated to the case, according to police who later investigated the incident. In this case, there actually was an investigation and we have the police report we can show you. Again, no mention of Chevron or anyone associated with Chevron.

While I don't have direct evidence to show that all of these allegations are false, I think one should categorize the statements regarding harassment as myths, unless Fajardo or the ADC can produce evidence to back them up.

Why would Pablo Fajardo and the ADC be so eager for favorable publicity? I think at least part of the reason is because they want the public to donate to their cause. They are collecting donations on their US web site. They are even offering tax receipts, suggesting that their activity is sanctioned by US tax officials. I wonder where their money is really going (pay US lawyers, pay US lobbyists, pay to "educate" journalists on their story, pay the "unbiased expert" in Ecuador), and who is auditing it. The ADC is a Non-Government Organization based in Ecuador.

Myth 4. When Texaco came to Ecuador, it had a huge negative impact on the lives of the people of Ecuador.

Texaco was granted a concession to look for and develop oil in Ecuador in 1964. Its first discovery of oil was in 1967, and oil began flowing about 1970.

Figure 3. Ecuador oil production, based on EIA data. Includes all companies producing oil in Ecuador, so in later years includes more than TexPet and Petroecuador.

Figure 3 gives show the history of oil production in Ecuador. Texaco (or really Texaco's subsidiary Texaco Petroleum, abbreviated "TexPet") started oil production about 1970, and by 1973 had ramped production up to the production plateau of about 200,000 bpd for the particular fields it developed. By 1976, the government of Ecuador through its company Petroecuador had taken over 62.5% owner of the consortium, and TexPet became minority owner with 37.5% ownership. In 1990, Petroecuador became the lead operator, and by 1992 TexPet was completely out. Thus, TexPet's influence was greatest in the "blue" period, declining in the "red" period, and out by the "green" period.

So how did the people of Ecuador fare when TexPet began production?

Figure 4 Site Pozo Sacha 53 in 1975, after TexPet completed its physical infrastructure

Figure 4 shows an areal photograph of one of the well sites, taken in 1975, after production was ramped up by TexPet. As one can see, the footprint is very small. The surrounding land is still virgin forest. It is hard to see why the infrastructure by itself would have had huge impact on Indians living nearby.

Figure 5 Site Pozo Sacha 53 in 2001, after the government completed its resettlement to develop agriculture in the area

Figure 5 shows the same area, after the government of Ecuador completed its community resettlement plan. Families were given 50 hectacre (124 acre) plots to farm, with the requirement that they clear the trees on at least half of the land. The families moving to this land were farmers, not workers in petroleum fields. This activity was much more disruptive to native peoples than the oil drilling.

Life expectancies have risen dramatically over the years, and are now very close to US life expectancies. According to IndexMundi, the 2008 life expectancy at birth is estimated to be 76.81 years. The corresponding US life expectancy is 78.14 years.

If one looks back, there has been a huge improvement in life expectancy. According to Globalis, the life expectancy for men in Ecuador was 50.1 years in 1960; 55.4 in 1970; 59.7 in 1980 and 64.7 in 1990. If oil production was having a terribly detrimental impact on life expectancy, it is hard to see it from the data.

Myth 5. The pits shown on television and featured in magazine articles are Chevron's responsibility to remediate.

ADC has been taking reporters on tours and giving them the impression that the pits they are showing them are Chevron's responsibility to clean up. In every instance I am aware of, the pits that have been shown are those that are Petroecuador's responsibility to clean up, rather than the responsibility of Chevron.

Figure 6 Map of Well Sites

On the map above, the wells drilled prior to 1990 are shown in brown; the wells drilled subsequent to 1990 are shown in green. Since Chevron and TexPet had nothing whatsoever to do with the wells drilled since 1990--the green dots--there is no way the pits associated with these wells are Chevron's responsibility.

With respect to the pits associated with the brown dots, a Remediation Action Plan was developed in 1995, overseen by Petroecuador and the Republic of Ecuador. TexPet was assigned its share of the pits (about 37.5%, based on its participation in the consortium). TexPet remediated the pits it was assigned. The remediation of these pits took three years (1995 to 1998) and cost $40 million. Each of the pits was signed off individually. When the overall group was completed, TexPet was given a document releasing it from further liability. This is an English-language version of the document--the Spanish version was what was actually signed.

Petroecuador was still using many of the pits it was assigned, so elected not to clean them up at that time. It has since started the clean-up. Petorecuador posted this advertisement in a newspaper 2006, indicating it was looking for workers to work on its assigned brown dot sites.

Figure 7 Petroecuador Advertisement for Workers to Clean Up Assigned Sites - (Click for larger image)

When I was visiting in Ecuador, I had the opportunity to see a number of pits--some cleaned up by TexPet and some assigned to Petroecuador. The sites that TexPet had cleaned up were pretty much invisible.

Figure 8 Cattle grazing on one site cleaned up by TexPet in 1995- 1998

Figure 8 shows one site which had been cleaned up, and now had cattle grazing on it. We saw others as well--one pit was remediated to a palm oil plantation and another had been remediated back to rain forest. The type of remediation for each pit was determined by the needs of land owners. Without geographical coordinates to tell where the pits had been there, it would have been impossible to detect where the former pits had been.

Figure 9 - Unremediated sitefrom pre-1990 (Petroecuador's responsibililty to clean up)

We also had the opportunity to see an unremediated pit that dated from 1990. It was a site that had been assigned to Petroecuador to clean up. Petroecuador had chosen not to continue using the site, but had also failed to clean it up. In the 19 years since 1990, any volatile hydrocarbons had long since vaporized. What was left looked very much like asphalt. We threw a large stone so it hit the surface. It simply landed on top of the asphalt-like substance. We did not try to walk on it because we did not have boots, and did not know if there would be a spot that would not hold our weight and would have water underneath. We heard that others had walked on top.

Clearly neither of these types of sites would be helpful to the cause of the ADC for showing journalists. So what did the ADC do? It found pits that Petroecudor had been using more recently, and had not cleaned up. The journalists didn't know any better, and fell for their story. That is why one sees all of the photos of yukky looking Petroecuador pits in all of the journal articles and television articles about the lawsuit against Chevron. I expect the photos Ben Barnes showed Obama were also of recently used Petroecuador pits, that he represented as Chevron's responsibility to clean up.

Figure 10 Site where Petroecuador workers were cleaning up assigned pit

We also stopped and talked to Petroecuador workers at a site they were cleaning up. We asked them questions about how far out from the pit it was necessary to dig to get all the hydrocarbons, and about their general technique. Everything we were told indicated that they were using exactly the same clean-up technique that TexPet had used in 1995 to 1998, that ADC is now criticizing.

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I will have to finish the rest of the story later. There is at least this much more to tell, but the post is getting too long, and web page would never open if I kept adding graphics to this page.

Did it occur to you that Chevron was feeding you their side of the story here? The WSJ isn't exactly impartial either.

I don't know where the truth really lies, but listening to just one side doesn't seem like a good way of finding it.

Yeah, it looks like TOD is being used as a platform for corporate propaganda here.

It's reassuring to see that I'm not the only one with such a reaction to Gail's article. Recently, in my personal peak oil outreach, I've been steering friends to the Oildrum as the premier site for information on related topics. Frankly, this article, as well as some others that Gail has presented on the front page, undermines the credibility and reputation of this site. Her opinions are welcome. However, showcasing such industry bias is poor strategy.

This does present a credibility problem, especially from well informed scientific types who have real experience in the region, and the activist community that works with indigenous right groups that have the scars to prove it.
As someone who has spent a bit of time in South much to vivid America, the history of the region will not be favorable to the corporate exploitation of it's past.
Things are changing now, and this law suit is one of many signals that business as usual is a thing of the past

I too have an issue with Chevron providing transport, lodging, and meals to the article's author, and undoubtedly steering her in the direction of their spin. I believe Gail to be an honest person, but sometimes propagandists/lobbyists (redundant, I know) prey upon honest people.

"While I don't have direct evidence to show that all of these allegations are false, I think one should categorize the statements regarding harassment as myths, unless Fajardo or the ADC can produce evidence to back them up."

This means that sworn testimony should be disregarded, especially when the techniques used to perpetrate the allegations are invariably the kind where hard evidence virtually impossible to come by. I would recommend that we don't slant the playing field so obviously in future articles.

Isn't an all expenses trip a bribe? Why didn't Chevron instead hit the "Donate" button on the top left of this page without any conditions on the use of the funds? Should TOD have a simple ethics policy to guide editors and posters? At least the offer from Chevron should have been posted online for discussion.

I agree.


Um... yeah, this is pretty amazing. I can't think of a more efficient way for a key TOD writer to publicly self-destruct than by taking Chevron cash to gather the factoids for this little piece of off-topic corporate PR. What a disappointing and discrediting choice, for both Gail and TOD.

Who took the photos for this post? In figures 11 through 14 in the photos PDF the date is 07/07/2007. These are Chevron photos? The PDF properties says "Microsoft Word - Photos of the FDA and Cabrera.doc" and "Author: krdq".

The photos associated with Figure 1 (which is the ones I assume you are talking about) are Chevron photos. I don't know the details. A date of 07/07/2007 would be reasonable.

I have to say that Gail deserves a bit of congratulations for putting up such a controversial article. She did preframe the discussion well by saying that there are multiple points of view.

That said, a good read of the actions of "free market Milton (Mr Greed) Friedman Economics" might be the investigative reporting found in the book "The Shock Doctrine" By Naomi Klein.

Shock Doctrine

I found myself depressed after reading about half of it and just left it on the shelf....

She did preframe the discussion well by saying that there are multiple points of view.

No, she didn't. Another staff member, Super G, wrote an editor's note. (And he's actually listed as Technician, not editor.)

Absolutely everything Gail said in this post is decidedly on one side of the issue.

But it is based on my review of what I see, which includes a lot of digging. It comes out on one side of the issue, but that is how I see things. I try to document why.

I have no argument with your having a view on the issue -- what I argue against is any side of this argument being a proper topic as lead article at TOD. The oil companies have been complicit in or guilty of innunmerable wrong doings around the globe -- but I don't blame TOD for not exploring these issues, except insofar as they impact the energy situation. It takes away from the main focus. Some of this stuff shows up (legitimately IMO) in Drumbeat, and some firefights break out in the comments (legitimately and entertaining so IMO), but these are side discussions.

How does one decide what is and is not within the bounds for TOD lead articles? Surely it cannot be just any issue affecting an energy company. What is it about this issue? What justifies it being covered, even if the other side is given equal space? That's a serious dilution of focus. And again, I'm not an advocate of a narrow focus even in the lead articles. But I see here an abandonment of all focus, except that the company is an energy company.

The TOD and the peak oil movement have the great advantage of having oil company professionals, retired and not, as active commenters and participants. But the great danger and the natural suspicion is that TOD might be unduly influenced by more than just the professionals in the industry. From that point of view alone, it is an extremely unwise decision for the TOD to have entered this particular fray, and worse still on the corporate side. It's something that should be thought about from the point of view of what's best for TOD and its continuing role -- what harms it, what promotes it. This does not help.


Well said, couldn't agree more.

Yeah, it looks like TOD is being used as a platform for corporate propaganda here.

I'm afraid I have to agree. It would be one thing if some of this got argued in the comment section of Drumbeat or something like that, but not as a lead article. It's totally off point as far as peak oil is concerned, and I am not one to narrowly construe the limits. If it were an article even by a CEO of an oil company championing some thing or another to do with energy, I would not be upset, but would simply rebut in the comments. But here? It's bad, bad, bad and harms the credibility of TOD.

Overall Gail and the editors have done a great job. They're permitted a stumble once in a while. But this is a stumble.

One of the main problems to me of having such corporate propaganda as lead articles on this forum is that it will likely lead some, who might otherwise be interested in learning important info here, to conclude that it is just another front for Big Oil, and to dismiss the site and its message out of hand.

At this point, it might be useful for the editors to make a full disclosure of any support they get or have gotten from the oil industry, just to clear the air.

gail, did they offer you any koolaid ?

I have tried to document the evidence as I see it, so it is not just Chevron's story against the ADC's.

The ADC has told its story in many public forums. These are some of them:

Amazon Defense Coalition's Website

Vanity Fair May 2007 Article

Interview, Steven Donziger

Statement by Steven Donziger to the Tom Lantanos Human Rights Commission

In my view, there is an important story that needs to be told, backed by plenty of physical evidence, that is not being told. I only got a chance to tell part of the story in this post--the whole thing is so long and complicated that a person cannot cover it in a single post. That is a big reason that the story is not being covered well in main-stream press.

After I finish the story as I see it, if someone can find legitimate holes in it, I can look at the issue again. Perhaps we can get Donziger to do a rebuttal.

The plaintiff's side of the story has been told in numerous publications and TV shows, most recently in one of CBS 60 Minute's stories. The videos that I have seen typically seem to show ongoing pollution, and it's puzzling that the plaintiffs have not been going after Petroecuador to clean up their act. This is the first time I've seen anything that presents the Chevron side of the story in some detail. This appears to be a complicated story that can't be explained in a 10 minute television program. Thanks Gail for at least providing some balance.

Petroecuador is a real problem. They average over 100 pipeline spills per year. They flare all of the natural gas that is produced with the oil. They have not been doing their share of the site clean up, which leaves all of the unremediated sites to show reporters.

But Petroeducador does not have deep pockets. Neither does TexPet, which still exists as a corporation. Texaco (which owns TexPet) has already been shown not to be liable for TexPet's problems, because it in no way directed its activities. Chevron has deep pockets and is the owner of Texaco, which also still exists as a corporation. For some reason, ADC (or who-ever is really the plaintiff in this case; ADC is just the beneficiary of any award, not the plaintiff) believes that it is appropriate to sue Chevron--which has deep pockets.

Texaco (which owns TexPet) has already been shown not to be liable for TexPet's problems, because it in no way directed its activities.

Per the Texaco Engineer I talked to in Houston in the late 1970s/early 1980s, they sure as hell did.


Chevron's roll in financing (through a oil pipeline, one of their many headaches accrued from corporate "acquisition") of the brutal regime in Burma has upped the stakes also, they are ethically treading in some dangerous waters. I avoid doing business with Chevron.


I was aware of the criminal behavior of Texaco in the late 1970s (perhaps early 1980s). While working in Houston as a consultant I talked with a Texaco engineer lamenting what his company was doing in Ecuador. "We could NEVER do this in the US, Texas outlawed this in the 1930s. I fear for the poor people there."

A family health emergency prevents more ATM.

But Chevron (they bought Texaco) paid for Gail's trip and no doubt supplied the entire list of "myths" which have very little, if anything, to do with the immoral and criminal behavior of Texaco.

I have long refused to buy Texaco & now Chevron products, based on the decades ago conversation.


I don't pretend to know the ins and outs of the case, but one thing I suggested to Gail is that she meet with some of the people who brought the lawsuit and ask them to see some of the evidence. Regardless of whether Chevron paid for the trip, I like to know that I heard both sides of a story.

I agree.

We are frequently pretty hard on the MSM, but let's do a thought experiment. Let's assume that a WSJ reporter, on a trip paid for by Chevron, went down to Ecuador and wrote exactly this same article, publishing it on the front page of the paper. What would we think? Of course, the analogy is not perfect, since we are comparing a professional (advertiser & subscription supported) news organization to an unpaid blogger.

But if one is going to cover a controversial story, especially when one side is paying the bills for a trip, doesn't one have an obligation to strive to cover both sides of the story?

I don't know that we are entirely analogous to a newspaper. A newspaper gives two paragraphs of ones side of the story, one paragraph of the other side of the story, and considers the job done.

The problem is that the job isn't done. I have done a lot of digging, and what I am presenting is the result of my digging. I am sorry I was not able to present all of the story at one setting. I present not only my conclusions, but a lot of documentation for my conclusions. I don't follow the standard once over lightly from newspapers with proper "balance" that misses most of the real story.

When I talked to Chevron, I didn't accept their word for anything. I asked for documentation. I think a story based on a through review of documentation, with a lot of it attached, is worth a whole lot more than a side by side laying out two sides of a story, with no attempt to determine what is true and what is false.

The question is whether you made an effort to talk to the "other side", to confront them with the evidence you feel undermines their case, and to give them a chance to rebut that evidence. That is responsible journalism no matter what forum you publish in, and no matter what conclusion you reach, especially when you are accusing people of being liars, which is strongly implicit in what you've written here.

I think once we get all of the myths written down in one place, we should definitely get the "other side" to respond to them. There are way too many instances of laboratory results not jibing with public statements, plaintiffs paying the for the "impartial expert," and other issues we just do not expect to happen in a fair trial.

My preference would be Steve Donzinger.

Haven't you ever thought that Chevron is using you to see what cards ADC has?
By pushing buttons for ADC to react -- that is Chevron game. They preferred someone else do the bidding for them. Surely, it's not like Chevron is clueless in all this "myths" -- whatever they are.
By putting all this "research" w/out some effort to close some gaps with ADC as they expressed in the blog, it just created more animosity that's not going to be good. How do ADC trust that you are not Chevron's people? This is a big case for them -- they are not going to answer much if it jeopardizes their case.

I see no way out of this mess. Look like ADC and Chevron really pushing all buttons until the blow-off at the court, and this won't stop with Gail or TOD.

For now, I am biased toward ADC b/c I disliked the way Chevron behaved. First, by asking for trial to be in Ecuador and now attacking the country court and whoever on their path and by lobbying Bush to attach dropping of this case during trade talk with Ecuador. Don't tell me Chevron is playing nice.

I take your response at saying: No, you did not consult the people you are leveling accusations against. And yes, you are behaving as an advocate concerning a case going to trial, and not as a journalist seeking to enlighten the public about a conflict you are not a party to.

I agree with the others who say that this post is not in keeping with TODs mission. It belongs somewhere else. (Don't you have a website that's just yours?)

I would like to continue to be able to recommend this site to friends. If keyposts like this are going to appear regularly, it's simply impossible for me to do that. It would make me a laughingstock.

When I lived in Houston (80's ~ early 90's) many neighbors and close friends worked for Texaco. As the news about Ecuador has come to the forefront I have asked those I still keep in contact with what their opinions of the situation were. Unanimously they all have said "the media isn't telling the Texaco side of the story." This coming from people I trust to spare me the Chevron PR.

On a related note I have a good friend that has always worked for Chevron (not Texaco) who admittedly knows nothing about the Ecuador situation. He does know about the Canadian oil sands and has openly questioned how the "mess in Ecuador could even come close to the environmental catastrophe happening in Alberta."

I congratulate Gail for bringing this story forward. TOD for me is an alternate media. There is plenty of politics here in regards to AGW among other things and we are all free to have our own opinions. I don't post often as I usually don't have anything of value to add, but I keep reading because there is opinion and reporting that isn't found in the MSM. This article is a perfect example of such.

Alan from Big Easy -- I represent the Amazon Defense Coalition. I would really like to talk with you more -- once you have taken care of your family emergency. Would you email me at

Sorry, but I think this is inappropriate and flagged it as such.

I see nothing inappropriate with this. Chevron might, of course...

Try not to turn yourself into a mouthpiece. Its just so damn easy to be lead around by the nose.

Interesting that so many folks have such strong opinions yet few, like Allen, have direct knowledge. But some things are self evident: all corporations lie, all Jews are cheap, all blacks are lazy, all Hispanics are illegal, all politicians are dishonest, all bankees are over paid, etc, etc. Rut roh...forgot one: all folks who post on website have hidden agenadas/prejudices.

Like Allen, I've seen first hand oil companies, accidently or through neglect, screw up the environment. Unfortunately, many of those incidents complied with local laws/policies at the time. None of this implies Texaco was guilty of bad stewardship or not. I just find prejudgenmment of anyone a poor substitute for knowledge.

And a personal note: anyone who thinks Gail is stupid/gullable/for sale either hasn't spent much time on TOD or just is trying to get back at her for past incidents when she may have beat them in a debate. Just my silly opinon, of course

I wish people would sit down and read the article, instead of having such strong prejudices as to how the story must be.

I am sorry I didn't get to tell the rest of the story--it is at least as damning or more damning. There is everything from a "peer reviewed paper" that purportedly shows a higher incidence of cancer, but uses identical exhibits to a previous paper by the same author, on a totally different subject; reports by ADC and the "independent expert" of benzene found at sites when absolutely none of the laboratory test shows benzene above detectable levels; checks from Pablo Fajardo totaling over $200,000 to the "expert", who is supposedly working independently for the court (rather than each side having its own expert). Chevron has not paid any of the "independent expert's" fees.

There was also a suit filed in 2007 in New York by Cristóbal Bonifaz, on behalf of seven plaintiffs who allegedly had cancer as the result of activities by TexPet. The case was thrown out, and Bonifaz fined $46,000, when it was found that not only did three of the supposed claimants not have cancer; Bonifaz had not even consulted with them to put their names in the law suit.

The list goes on and on. There is no way that Chevron is getting a fair trial in Ecuador. Chevron thought they could get a fair trial in Ecuador in 2003 when the suit was first filed there, but with the new leftist government led by President Correa, Ecuador's financial problems (they have defaulted on some of their debt), and Ecuador's need to find a deep pocket to blame their current problems on, it is very doubtful that Chevron can get a fair trial now.

Just to be clear, it was a private conversation I had with a Texaco engineer. One issue that distressed him (from memory) was disposal of produced water.

In the US, one pays to re-inject produced water (full of nasty chemicals found in crude oil, such as benzene) and in any "civilized" nation. In Ecuador, they (from memory) just dumped the water produced with oil and water separated from the oil.

CLEARLY, prima facia, no dispute what so ever, simply dumping produced water into drinking water supplies, rivers, etc. is immoral and criminal.

Texaco/Chevron is arguing it was not illegal at the time. My response is that I suspect that bribes of local officials and other influence was used to keep Ecuador from adopting the environmental laws of 1930s Texas.

To rephrase, in 1936, in Texas, Texaco could not have legally done what they did in Ecuador.

And Gail sees some injustice in an ex post facto (after the fact) law making Texaco liable for actions that were illegal almost everywhere in the world and that any reasonable man would expect to cause harm.

Gail wastes her limited space complaining about where one of the lawyers got his degree. To quote Rhett Butler, "Frankly my dear, I do not give a damn !"


PS: I am distressed and waiting for a doctor to see my mother on an emergency basis (quicker than going through ER). Not enough time to fully read links & debate.

OK. Suppose TexPet dumped salty water into the rivers more than 19 years ago. One question is what damage it did do, and what remediation was necessary to clean it up. Was there really any significant damage from the practice? In the US, the various states dump huge amounts of salt on roads each year when it is icy. They no doubt dumped even more, back in the 1970s and 1980s. How is TexPet's practice (assuming they did dump salty water) so much worse?

I don't see anyone suggesting doing studies to measure the damage from salt water dumped in streams 19+ years ago. Is there a reason why?

Produced water (as opposed to drilling fluids; one is produced with oil, the other during drilling operations) is not JUST "salty water' as you infer. It is an incredibly toxic soup ! Benzene worst of all.

Texaco, and any corporate successors (Chevron) is fully liable for any damage for several generations. Any cancer cases from people that drank from rivers criminally polluted by Texaco, for instance.


De we know what was actually put in the rivers and waterways? The extent of separation would make a difference, as would the extent to which the separated water was treated. As far as I know, the plaintiffs have not put anything into evidence in this regard.

Everything I have seen says the evidence on increased cancer rates is very weak. Ecuadorian government data shows significantly higher cancer rates in Quito than in the provinces where the oil was produced, but that may partly be because of underreporting.

There is a huge problem now with untreated sewage in rivers, but this is not a problem related to the oil companies. This seems to be the big issue, but no one wants to talk about it.


Surface discharge of produced water for oil and gas operations is still legal, allowed, and occurring in the United States. Obviously, it is monitored by state and federal government agencies and the water has very defined limits it has to meet (total dissolved solids, oil and grease, etc.). A lot of produced water is required to be re-injected or disposed of at approved offsite facilities, but in some areas where the produced water is fresh it is being surface discharged.

You are obviously very passionate about this subject, but it seems like you should still know your facts before you make such an extreme rant. Although, perhaps you are correct and the 1936 laws in Texas were more stringent than laws in the US today? Somehow, I don't think so.

Disposal of water from drilling fluids in rivers was standard practice in pretty much everywhere in the world outside of the US right through the seventies. Environmental legislation gradually made this illegal in many countries but in countries such as Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and many, many others where the government ranks environmental issues relatively low on their agendas it remained legal. In fact it is still legal in Peru to dispose of treated drilling fluids into rivers.....companies do not do that anymore simply because they now choose to apply the same environmental standards wherever they work. The story as told is exactly what I have heard from numerous sources who worked in Ecuador for other companies. Basically Texaco did create damage which they were required to remediate. They did so and hence fulfilled their obligation. Being held accountable for the mess made by PetroEcuador in the years following Texaco's activities is ridiculous.

And a personal note: anyone who thinks Gail is stupid/gullable/for sale either hasn't spent much time on TOD or just is trying to get back at her for past incidents when she may have beat them in a debate. Just my silly opinon, of course


I have spent plenty of time on TOD and I stopped reading Gail's posts long ago because I suspected the worst. She was writing a piece on drilling ANWR some time ago and stated that burning those billions of barrels would not have a significant effect on AGW. It's fine to make that statement but please back it up with some critical thinking -- that was not done and it has been a pattern.

I understand your point gog. I suppose it gets down to the eye of the beholder. I just tend the need first hand evidence before I call anyone a liar. Same philosophy dealing with you and others who I may disagree with on issues here at TOD. Debating positions is one thing. Personal attacks are OK in my book too IF there is specific knowledged. If you have proof that Gail is on the take from Chevron I would be very interested in seeing it. But dispariging a person's ethics because they hold a different opinion then me is not right. I would have offered the same defense for you in similar circumstances even if I were on the opposite side of a debate. Just that simple.

I don't think this is a question of "being a liar".
This is more about being a bit street smart, and have real time experience in a very messy world, with peoples lives at stake.
As someone who has traveled overland, with no ticket home, and slept in those 8 peso a night residencies, one develops a different perspective to someone flown into a capital, put up in a good hotel, and led around by corporate propagandists (sorry "spokespeople").
Of course this could be a left wing conspiracy to deny me my right to divine prosperity.

Could you maybe put sarcasm tags on your offensive racial stereotypes? You don't really come across as trying to be funny.

Sorry Gail I don't buy your take on this.

Life expectancies have risen dramatically over the years, and are now very close to US life expectancies. According to IndexMundi, the 2008 life expectancy at birth is estimated to be 76.81 years. The corresponding US life expectancy is 78.14 years.

If one looks back, there has been a huge improvement in life expectancy. According to Globalis, the life expectancy for men in Ecuador was 50.1 years in 1960; 55.4 in 1970; 59.7 in 1980 and 64.7 in 1990. If oil production was having a terribly detrimental impact on life expectancy, it is hard to see it from the data.

If the pollution is localised and in a sparsely inhabited area then any local health problems would probably be drowned out by national trends.

As for the cleanup of the storage pits, am I correct in reading that these pits were in use since 1970 and some were cleaned up by Chevron between 1995 and 1998. Why wait so long? The rainforest is a wet place. It would get rainfall measured in metres per year. Anything dangerous in those pits could wash out very quickly in the wet season leaving contaminated soil behind as the legal documents seem to allege.

Lets face it, oil companies don't have a great track record of environmental management or being honest about problems when things do go wrong. The Exxon Valdez spill for instance. Why should I believe that Chevron is the innocent victim of an opportunistic law suit brought by greedy indigenous people. Your piece even reads a lot like company PR. I normally find your work interesting and insightful Gail but again I just don't buy it.

The 1995 to 1998 clean-up was begun after the 1993 lawsuit was filed, and the 1993 lawsuit was definitely instrumental in getting the clean-up going.

TexPet arguably could have done more to clean up earlier, but as a minority partner, its budgets were set and agreed upon by the State of Ecuador and Petroecuador. Also, Petroecuador had plans to continue producing oil from many of the well sites, so there would be push-back in this regard also.

Speaking of Exxon....

Exxon Valdez Interest to be Paid

Another example of using the courts to tie things up....

Not that it matters, but record profits and discussion about windfall profits could be avoided by some real, down-home, taking responsibility for your failures. Folks might be more inclined to believe CVX if the record was not filled with similar events around the globe.

From the NOAA

Oil spills happen all around the world. Analysts for the Oil Spill Intelligence Report, who track oil spills of at least 10,000 gallons (34 tons), reported that spills in that size range have occurred in the waters of 112 nations since 1960. But they also reported (Etkin 1997) that oil spills happen more frequently in certain parts of the world. They identified the following "hot spots" for oil spills from vessels:

* the Gulf of Mexico (267 spills)
* the northeastern U.S. (140 spills)
* the Mediterranean Sea (127 spills)
* the Persian Gulf (108 spills)
* the North Sea (75 spills)
* Japan (60 spills)
* the Baltic Sea (52 spills)
* the United Kingdom and English Channel (49 spills)
* Malaysia and Singapore (39 spills)
* the west coast of France and north and west coasts of Spain (33 spills)
* Korea (32 spills)

see it at Oil Spill Data

Wonder what the global effects of this "traffic" might be? Is this an acceptable level of risk for society as a whole?

Regardless of the merits of the case one way or another the second aerial photograph depicts a situation that can not be denied.

Figure 5 shows the same area, after the government of Ecuador completed its community resettlement plan. Families were given 50 hectacre (124 acre) plots to farm, with the requirement that they clear the trees on at least half of the land. The families moving to this land were farmers, not workers in petroleum fields. This activity was much more disruptive to native peoples than the oil drilling.

However you arrive at that situation it is deplorable that government of Ecuador doesn't seem to understand the environmental costs of it's own programs. Not that I have any illusions about the overall ecological footprint of Exxon being equally devastating on a global scale.

A common situation with roads in undeveloped areas is that they induce subsequent land use change. No one should be surprised that the road to the well site was subsequently used as an access corridor for agricultural development. The settlement scheme would likely not have taken place if the well road was not installed in the first place.

This is why so many people resist new roads for whatever purpose- see, for example, the U.S.F.S. Roadless Rule saga.

As I understand the situation, the initial wells were installed primarily with helicopters. The State of Ecuador required that the consortium also build roads to the well sites, and that these road be made open to the public.

Once these roads were available, the State of Ecuador used the roads to advance their policy of increasing agricultural production. There apparently was a famine in part of Ecuador that pushed the resettlement effort along. The fact that free land was offered made sure that there were plenty of takers.

Gail, your gullibility for the Chevron attempts to blame everything on the government of Ecuador is disturbing. Do you really believe the following???

As I understand the situation, the initial wells were installed primarily with helicopters. The State of Ecuador required that the consortium also build roads to the well sites, and that these road be made open to the public.

Do you honestly think that absent Ecuador's requirements that Texaco(later Chevron) planned to helicopter out their crude? Or build pipelines by helicopter without adjacent service roads? Or build the producing (rather than exploratory) wells via expensive ($1000/hr) helicopter transport rather than cheap truck transport?

Is there one example on the planet of a producing oil well array without truck, ship, or pipeline (with service road) access?

If you believe Chevron's obvious line of BS, then your BS detector needs some calibration.

Gail -

I fail to see why this lawsuit is so an important story as to warrant a multi-part series of several thousand words. This isn't a legal or environmental activist website, you know. Someone will win and someone will lose; someone will be blamed and someone will be exonerated; someone will be awarded damages and someone will have to pay up ... none of which changes the physical reality of the situation.

I'm also curious as to exactly what Chevron's interest was in inviting you down there and paying your way. The fact that the result was a long story highly favorable to Chevon's side might make even a reasonable person (arguably someone such as myself) raise an eyebrow and wonder whether there was some sort of overt or unspoken quid pro quo. To some, this might have the appearance of advocacy rather than impartial reporting.

I have to agree with Joule this site is about Peak oil and its cosequences and a court case involving Cheveron/Texaco is of no consequence to Peak oil whatever. Wheather they did wrong or not if the case is frivilious it will be run our of court.

If the case were being tried in this country, it would have been dismissed long ago. The case is being tried where the rule of law is now very weak. The US Department of State in February 2009 has now cited Ecuador as having problems in its civil court system. One cannot equate the Ecuador courts with US courts.

I think that is a terrible thing to go on. Do you think Mexico have a good court system now? 5 years ago? 10 years ago? In 1995, how much is difference is the court system in Ecuador vs Mexico? Remember Chevron agreed to have their case heard in Ecuador! They had an HUGE advantage with their billion dollar war-chest if the "system" is skewed correctly. Of course, one can't equate the Ecuador courts with US courts, that was why Chevron want to have the case there until things changed.

Chevron was sure a victory until the rule of the "game" (not law) changed. The game now is that Ecuadorians' votes does count -- those in power will have to oblige to listen to their people' grievances.
To say in Feb 2009, the US state department think this and that is just bad. Ecuador probably got a worse 2008 report (ours) on human right than Chile got during the Pinochet's era. We don't think well of countries that don't allow us into their natural resources. Obama or not, the US corporations yield a lot of influences.

I have to agree. However technically proficient you have proved yourself at conveying the physical data on peak oil, your grasp of the history of these countries seems inadequate for the judgments you are making (to put the very best light on it.) The more you talk on this topic, the more your pro-industry bias and your blinkered view of the history of the area appears.

Don't get me wrong. I think it is fine to express political positions. But to put them at the level of a lead article is likely to damage the credibility of the whole site, a site I cherish.

The folks in the Southern Hemisphere have tired of the multinational land grabs and malfeasance.

"The Ecuadorean port city of Manta currently hosts the largest U.S. military base in South America, which serves as a staging area for the "war on drugs" largely fought in Columbia. Correa's government has announce that when the agreemtn for the base expires in 2009, it will not be renewed" from

    The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein pg 574


Would this have anything to do with the evaluation by the State Department?

Or perhaps,

"In April 2007,, Ecuador's president revealed that he had suspended all loans from the [IMF] and declared the institution's representative - persona non grata. Two years earlier, Correa explained, the World Bank had used a $100 million loan to defeat economic legislation that would have redistributed oil revenues to the country's poor. [the president said] "Ecuador is a sovereign country, and we will not stand for extortion from this international bureaucracy." Ibid pg 578....

Which begs the question: When the governor of Alaska does it what is it called? Not leftist, for sure.....

Gail, I would propose that in the interest of impartiality that the use of the terms "leftist" "neoliberal" "neoconservative" and "rightist" tend to set an untoward tone and is based on a desire to slant the discussion. Would you agree?

Also, there is a history of banana republic manipulations by the US government that at the least should be acknowledged as being part of what has contributed to this issue. Herman Daly would definitely not agree with the approach taken by Chevron/Texaco (who have admitted to spills) that only by reproach were agreements made to effect cleanup. Texaco trained the locals...and how!!

Otherwise, great bunch of data and I appreciate your typical balance on subjects posted. Methinks the scales have been tipped a bit this time.....And as far as being posted on TOD - seems that it has to do with oil so it fits in my view.

I fail to see why this lawsuit is so an important story as to warrant a multi-part series of several thousand words.

I have to agree with Joule this site is about Peak oil and its cosequences and a court case involving Cheveron/Texaco is of no consequence to Peak oil whatever.

If the case were being tried in this country, it would have been dismissed long ago.


You're dodging the question: why did you post this? Why is it appropriate for this site? Why is it relevant? Why does it merit such a long article? Why should care about this particular lawsuit?

You've posted a lot of very strong opinions as lead stories recently, and they seem remarkably coincidentally in the interests of oil companies (anti-wind, pro-oil). You may be doing so honestly, but it looks terrible for the website's credibility.


I would suggest to the other editors that Gail may be allowing her personal opinions to get too involved in the editorial selection of stories, and it might be good for all involved if she took a break for a bit. I'm sure she's writing and posting based solely on her honest beliefs, but there is the appearance of a very strong bias, and of a conflict of interest, and that appearance is damaging the credibility of

Honestly: a direct and blatant attack on wind (the only renewable currently at large scales) and a direct defense of Chevron, by the same editor, who has received funding from Chevron, posted within a couple of weeks; how is that not going to create an appearance of a conflict of interest? Nate and Prof. Goose, is that really how you want The Oil Drum to appear to people?

The blog lives based on its social capital, and this kind of bias is exactly how that social capital gets lost.

I have great respect for Gail and her past posts. But it does seem as though her choices lately have been a bit "off". The "space power" keypost from the frozen-head guy was as painful as watching a puppy in traffic.

Gail, I only have the time to respond to a few comments, but this one definitely needs a response: this case WAS tried in this country - for 9 years in U.S. federal court. In fact, the U.S. court only transferred the case to Ecuador AFTER Texaco (now Chevron) argued for 9 years that the Ecuadorian courts were competent and fair - over the objection of the plaintiffs.

It seems clear to those of us working on the issue that Chevron's tactic was to make sure that this case never saw a judgment, anywhere. They wanted the case transferred to Ecuador where they thought it would be prohibitively difficult to bring the issue to trial. Now that there is a trial, they say that the SAME courts that they praised, are now suddenly biased.

And to you points about the US Department of State report - check the reports for 2001 ( when Chevron was arguing so passionately that Ecuadorian courts are fair and competent - and you'll see almost the exact same concerns about Ecuador having problems with its civil court system. Chevron didn't see that as a problem at that point, when they wanted the case in Ecuador...

Exactly!!! I think Gail just missed it. Ecuador's corruption index is going to nowhere for the past many years. But of course, Chevron want to be there -- sure corruption is good if you know how to buy it. Chevron thought that the court system was "fair and competent".... Hahaha -- nothing changed except
1) Rafael Correa won the election -- can't buy the government.
2) Obama won the election -- it's tougher to lobby this one. Just of last year, Chevron was lobbying hard to kill this case by attaching conditions on top of US-Ecuador trade talk. A bunch of sleeze if you ask me.

Biased is good if it's toward you. Chevron just want to win not for justice to be heard.

"Chevron thought that the court system was "fair and competent""

Just as Fox News is "fair and balanced"?!

Gail, you did not reply to Rib's key point, and what I believe to be the crux of the issue:

This whole story of no consequence to Peak oil whatever.

I agree with everything joule says, except that Gail's post doesn't "have the appearance of advocacy". It IS advocacy.

From the FWIW department, I flagged this report from 60 Minutes back on May 3. At that time Gail indicated she was going to do a report on it.

Amazon Crude


I find it amazing that a show with as good a reputation as 60 Minutes could do such a poor job of telling the story. Clearly, CBS was taken in by the story (and it is just that, a story) being told by the ADC. They did talk to Chevron, after Chevron heard about the show, and demanded that CBS at least hear their side of the story. Sixty Minutes put in a little part to make it look like they had researched both sides of the story, even though the story as told is very one-sided.

I find it amazing that a site with as good a reputation as TOD could do such a poor job of telling the story. Clearly, TOD was taken in by the story (and it is just that, a story) being told by Chevron. Gail put in a little part to make it look like she had researched both sides of the story, even though the story as told is very one-sided.

I know two people who have been working with the people of Ecuador in this region for a number of years, and have obtained a very different opinion about this case and situation. The photos and first hand accounts are devastating. Chevron probably gave Gail the greewash tour, with scripted encounters and views.
I attended a San Francisco Mycological Lecture where Bioremediation is being attempted with fungi to clean up toxic oil waste dumped in jungle and riparian systems. They have had some success, but the scale of damage is unbelievable. The photos and accounts of the people were heart breaking.

I would like to see exactly what is happening where--what the problems are and what remediation is considered necessary. Are the issue primarily Petroecuador issues, or do they have something to do with TexPet?

If the issues do have to TexPet, was there anything known at the time that TexPet realistically could have done differently?

At this point, I have seen so much fraudulent material that I think fraud should be carefully considered in any paper presented, even if the material comes from peer reviewed sources.

What links do you have that you can provide?

Hightrekker was that Paul Stamets at the Mycological Lecture?

If not check this amazing presentation;

Shows Bioremediation

Souper- Not at this one, but I have heard many talks by Paul, and the group in Ecuador used his knowledge and experience to try to help remediate this horrendous environmental disaster.
Oyster mushrooms seem especially good at this.

I'm with Gail on this. It really galls me that the first few comments on this site were along the lines that she's somwhow been duped by Chevron. Wow, talk about some people being gullible in the "other" way... And after ALL that Gail has contributed to this site over the years. Bunch of ingrates, really...

I've been following the "lawsuit" (better term: "shakedown") of Chevron in U.S. and Ecuadorean courts. One element of the lawsuit was dismissed "with prejudice" in the U.S. because the court figured out that the claims of massive cancers and illnesses were total fiction. The attorneys for the plaintiffs just plain made stuff up. They recruited poor, unsuspecting campesinos to say that they were sick, when medical analysis showed that not one of them had a cancer cell in their body. Lies. Rubbish. Fraud on the court.

And as Gail makes clear, Texaco complied EXACTLY with its obligtions under Ecuadorean law in the 1990s. Texaco cleaned up EVERY site that it was obligated to remediate under its agreement with the then-government of Ecuador. No one can point to even one site where Texaco's remediation was not adequate. So for lack of any semblance of a smoking gun against Texaco, the plaintiffs make up more "stuff" and blame Texaco for things it never even did, let alone did wrong.

Problem is that Petroecuador failed to remediate ITS sites. Those Petroecuador sites are the problem. Well, that's too bad. But it's not Texaco's fault that someone else failed to do what it was supposed to do.

Really, it's like the drunk guy looking for his car keys under the lamp-post, even though he lost the leys back in the dark alley. But the light is better under the lamp-post.

Plaintiffs say that Texaco dumped "toxic-laden formation wters" into the local environment and poisoned thousands of people. Huh? Where are the poisoned people? There are none. And "toxic-laden?" You mean, "brine" water? Hey, Texaco followed standard worldwide best-practices for its entire tenure in Ecuador. Ecuador got the same treatment as Texas or Louisiana. The formation water disposal caused no harm to the environment or to people.

I could go on, but I have my own work to do. Just to close, however, the lawsuit against Chevron is a travesty and abuse of whatever passes for a justice-system in Ecuador. It's the kind of thing that wrecks the credibility of the Ecuadorean judicial system -- where the trial judge has stood on the stage with the president of that country to denounce Chevron in the most raw, socialist-populist terms.

Thanks Gail, for your insight and honest perspective!!!

Thanks for your vote of support.

I presume you are Byron King of Whiskey and Gunpowder. Byron was not on the trip and has come to the same conclusions I have.

Yes Gail, that's me... Been writing about Peak Oil and energy policy for five years on Whiskey & Gunpowder and other sites. Met M. King Hubbert and got "the briefing" back in 1977. Been doing Peak Oil since Peak Oil wasn't cool.

No, I did not go on the trip to Ecuador. Indeed, I have not taken a paycheck from an "oil company" in 28 years, and in my life I've never seen a dime from Chevron or Texaco.

My view of the meritless nature of the "lawsuit" against Chevron comes from my own -- extensive -- legal research and work to uncover what's going on. I practiced law for many years, and I can smell a stinker when the aroma drifts by. This lawsuit aginast Chevron stinks to high heaven.

Frequent Whiskey readers know that I like to drill down into the deep weeds when I get interested in a topic... whether it's oil companies or the Peloponnesian War. And this Ecuador lawsuit has turned into sort of a personal hobby for me.

I've looked at many sites, sponsored by many players in this drama. This includes the plaintiffs' site, and sites of their self-interested supporters -- including the plaintiffs' Washington DC-based public relations firm!!!!!! Got that, everyone? Let it sink in. Plaintiffs have hired their own PR zulus. They're waging Psyops on you. Get it?

I think that the plaintiffs are selling more phoney baloney than a crooked New York deli.

And wow!!! I'm astonished at how many long knives have been taking a whack at Gail on this site. It's like people were laying in wait for Gail's article to hit the wires. I really expected better from the Oil Drummers. How noble. Beat up on Gail 'cuz she went to the trouble of visiting the scene and now -- doggone it -- she's giving out the "wrong" perspective.

And I love the hearsay comments in this thread like, "I knew this guy 30 years ago who worked for Texaco, who said..." Yeah, right. I'll bet you knew some Texaco dude. Him and Elvis Presley, too, huh?

The lawsuit against Chevron is just another example of the decline & fall of the modern legal system, with its execrable "mass-tort" litigation gone wild... Baseless charges, wild-assed lies, bunch of BS just spun out of thin air, with nary a proper legal basis. The Chevron hit-suit begins with something of an Ecuadorean version of a Bill of Attainder, one of the few legal processes that is expressly outlawed in the U.S. Constitution.

And it's all being lapped up by the stupid media (eg, CBS 60-Minutes) -- whoops, "stupid media;" I repeat myself -- and gullible "free thinkerz," like a herd of trained seals clapping their fins for another dead fish.

From what I hear, it ain't over 'till it's over -- and it won't be over for a loooooooong time.

Plaintiffs are trying to bamboozle Chevron into offering a settlement. Go to the shareholders meeting, and all. Publishing PR-garbage that they throw against the wall, just to see if it sticks. And still the plaintiffs want to settle? As Santa Claus says, "Ho-ho-ho." Chevron will probably fight the plaintiffs in every court on this planet. And deservedly so.

So take that to the bank, boyz & girlz. No wait a moment... If there's one thing that I learned in all my years practicing law, it's that it's a long walk between the courthouse and the bank.

As a representative for the Amazon Defense Coalition, I'm not even sure where to start. There are so many inaccuracies in this blog. For those of you who want to read about the plaintiffs' position, go to this web site for documents that present our side,, look for news and multi-media, and then press kit.

Or, click here:

A couple of points: The photos included here don't show that the Chevron lawyers and representatives are there are at the test sites as well. They are cropped out. Chevron has paid the court to have tests taken, so the comments about the $200,000 is misleading. Both sides have had to write checks to pay for tests.

The plaintiffs have never denied that Petroecuador has been part of the problem. But, Texaco built the system and then was the sole operator of the system until it left in 1992. Since the election of President Correa, Petroecuador has been cleaning up some of the contamination and moving people away from the wells and pits. This cleanup will cost billions of dollars, and, Chevron can not use Texaco's so-called remediation agreement as a way to wash its hand of the problem.

Number one the remediation agreement does not release Texaco from third-party claims, such as the ones in our lawsuit. Number two, Texaco did not clean up the pits they said they would remediate. Instead, they just poured dirt into the pits. This is why, in some instances, you can't actually see the pits because they are covered with dirt -- like putting makeup over skin cancer.

The only reason Texaco signed the remediation agreement was to convince a US judge to allow the lawsuit to be moved from a US court to an Ecuadorian court. Texaco argued that only in Ecuador could they get a fair trial. Well, they got their trial. The evidence is overwhelmingly against them, and now and only now do they cry foul play.

Clearly Chevron was as the evidence gathering, since they were able to take pictures of this incidence of evidence gathering. But Chevron is not choosing the samples to be used, digging in the mud, and stirring the samples. One of the issues in this case was that Chevron was to be notified in advance whenever samples were taken. This has not happened. So it is not at all clear where the supposed samples were taken from, and when.

With respect to the suit in Ecuador in 2003, Chevron believed they could get a fair trial when the case was first filed. In fact, the court behaved like a "normal" court when it started out, with each side having its own experts, and the court appointing additional experts to work out differences. But that approach wasn't working for ADC--Chevron was winning hands down, when the rules were fair. (Also, there were changes in government, and a new judge appointed.) It was decided the fair approach was too slow. An "impartial expert" was appointed to substitute for both sides. The "impartial expert" is the one who has been paid over $200,000 by Pedro Fajarto, gets assistance from the ADC when it chooses samples, uses an unlicensed laboratory to do its test, and who refuses to let Chevron know when and where it is taking samples.

I would like to know how the ADC managed to convince the IRS that donations (to an Ecuadorian NGO) should be tax deductible. Or doesn't the ADC really have any ruling indicating that donations are tax deductible? Are audited financial statements available for the ADC?

I'd just like to point out, that last week Obama phoned "leftist" president Correa, congratulating him for his reelection. Apparently, the US President has no quarrel with the head of the corrupt third world country -no rule of law and whatnot- that this article tries to paint.

I'm new to the site, and from what I can see of Gail's previous work, this just doesn't sound like her. This whole article reads exactly like Chevron's press materials (see for yourself, at

After looking at things pretty closely, I am convinced that Chevron is mostly right, and the ADC is trying to make a huge case out of what might, at best, be a small case. Small cases don't give a big payback, so ADC has found it necessary to "improve" on it.

If I wanted to take the easy way out, I would either not report on the case, or tell the story 60 minutes and most everyone else who listened to ADC does. It is a tear jerker, but not really true.

Truth is somewhere in between. I doubt we will ever know the truth of how Chevron (TexPet) run its operation in Ecuador during the military dictatorship. How happy was Chevron as they paid off those officials to allow them to suck dry whatever oil there were -- leaving contaminated pits after pits. Whether Chevron fully cleaned up these sites are to be seen -- as a court date to hear these things will play out. But to absolve them now is just ridiculous.

Just b/c the 60 minutes piece is a tearjerker, doesn't make it that Chevron is a fool. Sure, ADC is playing this in their angles. Chevron is playing a different angle -- different level -- with politicians and those in power. Somehow, my feeling is things will get settle out of court -- Chevron will pay whatever little it is to make everyone happy. Mother Earth will get it in the end.

Talking about the fair trial -- I heard on NPR that it's Chevron that wanted the trial to be in Ecuador. So if anyone complained that Chevron doesn't get a fair trial -- hmmm... I think the problem is corruption. Before the current Ecuador government, Chevron thought they can bribe their way out of the issue -- it's the best path for them whether they are guilty or not. But a new Leftist government made that impossible and they lost their gamble.

Corporations operate a different game in countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, Nigeria. They will bribe the government to suppress the people as they exploit for resources. I won't be surprised if Chevron had bribed to get all their sites signed off as "cleaned up". Ecuador previous government officials probably looked the other way as they made money on both sides. Everything is BAU until the government is taken back by the people in cases like Ecuador.

That was the impression my friends working in Ecuador had. They knew they could game the system with a US client state in power, in which thy dictated the results and consequences, but when the winds of change happened, they scrambled for a new plan. I see Gail is part of the new plan.

I think people need to distinguish between what happened in the 1970s and 1980s, and the current law suit.

If a suit had been filed based on what happened in the 1970s and 1980s, and not distorted it based on all kinds of unfounded accusations, it is possible that a small award might be reasonable. But there is no such case.

What has actually been filed is a lawsuit that bears little relationship to the underlying reality. Furthermore, the courts of Ecuador are so corrupt that there is no way that Chevron can now get a fair trial. The result is so clearly inequitable, that any award is unlikely to be enforceable in any court elsewhere. Chevron doesn't have assets in Ecuador, so the lawsuit in Ecuador is a dead end, whether or not I write about it.

Furthermore, the courts of Ecuador are so corrupt that there is no way that Chevron can now get a fair trial.

Hahaha -- to say "now" that Ecuador courts are so corrupt so no way is just "funny". As if 5 years ago, Ecuador was a "clean" country and now it's corrupt.
The Corruption Index for Ecuador pretty much hasn't improve in the past 5 years. I think Chevron knew that in the first place and want the darn case to be heard in Ecuador -- but the problem for Chevron, it's just harder to buy out of this, politically since the regime changed.

There is no doubt that Chevron originally had no problem with the case in Ecuador. The government was different in 2003 when the case was transferred there, and the courts were much more fair. But things change, and are much different now.

"the courts were much more fair. But things change, and are much different now."

And this is based on....what exactly??

Have you carefully weighed the bulk of decisions made in the past with those being made now? Do you even have the legal credentials to make such a judgment? Can you reference some independent legal authority that has?

Short of any such independent support, this statement sounds as though it came straight from Chevron itself.

This whole article and the argumentation in favor of it is just an embarrassment to the site. It is irrelevant to peak oil issues. To people new to the site with any ability at critical thinking, it would put the whole concept of peak oil into question as some type of Big Oil psy-op.

To people new to the site with any ability at critical thinking, it would put the whole concept of peak oil into question as some type of Big Oil psy-op.

...and it's worth adding that there are plenty of people out there who believe that already. Gail is digging the hole deeper.

Thanks for your posts in this thread.

I am probably one of the few TOD regulars with personal, un-sponsored experience of the oilfields in Ecuador.

I traveled from the Putumayo region of Colombia across to the Lago Agrio area of Ecuador in the late 1970s. The whole area was pretty much Hell On Earth, with huge pits full of muddy, ugly looking water,smoky flares burning night and day, and workers subsisting in the most squalid conditions. I don't really know which multi-national oil company was responsible for those conditions, but at least at that time, there was no question that the local inhabitants were being poisoned and exploited, and massive environmental damage was occurring.

Given the massive inequality between the situation of the Amazonian inhabitants and the situation of the global corporate elites, my sympathies lie completely with the local inhabitants. Gail's passionate defense of the resource-extracting corporate behemoths leaves me cold. Chevron can take care of itself, and certainly will, and does not need TOD pages to protect it. Real living breathing people are suffering every day from poverty, disease, and environmental pollution in the Amazon, but somehow Gail's sympathy lies with a non-living financial entity.

If Chevron wants to operate in Ecuador, it needs to do so under the law and custom of Ecuador. If Chevron thinks the courts of Ecuador are unfair, then Chevron should move its' investments somewhere else on the globe. If Chevron is nicked by Ecuador's courts, maybe the IOCs will leave Ecuador's oil in the ground a little longer, only increasing the eventual price, which should be profit the people of Ecuador and not US stockholders.

Sixto Alfonso Durán-Ballén Cordovez (who was born in Boston) was head of the government during this time (early 1990's), and turned the country into a free market bazar, including
"led Ecuador into membership in the WTO which had a significant impact on the country's political institutions and export competitiveness".
We all know how well this worked out for working people in South America, and the flow of capital out of the country, while impoverishing the populace.

While we are on this topics :

Oil and Indians Don't Mix

There's an easy way to find oil. Go to some remote and gorgeous natural sanctuary, say Alaska or the Amazon, find some Indians, then drill down under them.

If the indigenous folk complain, well, just shoo-them away. Shoo-ing methods include: bulldozers, bullets, crooked politicians and fake land sales.

But be aware. Lately the Natives are shoo-ing back. Last week, indigenous Peruvians seized an oil pumping station, grabbed the nine policemen guarding it and, say reports, executed them. This followed the government's murder of more than a dozen rainforest residents who had protested the seizure of their property for oil drilling.

I remembered on watching a documentary on oilsand and its affect on the Indian population in Canada. The "white" doctor working with Indian population diagnosing the illnesses was forced out by the "government" in collusion with big corporations. Cases and cases like this and still on-going to current time, just sickening to me.

Tommy -- I applaud your passion but I think you've missed a minor fact: Chevron isn't operating in Ecuador today. The suit is about abuse done 20+years ago. There are folks suffering today in many lands from abusive oil field operations. I've seen it first hand recently in Africa. But the "Real living breathing people (who) are suffering every day" in Ecuador now are doing so at the hands of their own gov't...and have been for almost 20 years. Terrible events for sure. But it would be a good start for Ecuador to focus on those currently causing damage: their own state oil company.

As Rockman said, Chevron isn't operating in Ecuador.

I think that it should also be pointed out that there is a big difference between what TexPet did in Ecuador, and what ADC is doing now. TexPet may (or may not) have done things in less than the best way in the time it was in Ecuador prior to 1990. If the ADC had contented itself to use standard ways of fighting the case--not distorting the evidence, working behind the scenes with the "independent expert" , making ridiculous statements to the press about things Chevron supposedly had done, and claiming damages done by Petroecuador was done by TexPet, then I would have much less problem with the case. But ADC has found it necessary to "improve" its case greatly, through what appear to me to be illegitimate means--and that is a big part of my problem with this case.

If Texaco had such a terrible record in Ecuador, why was it necessary for ADC to go to these lengths?

"As Rockman said, Chevron isn't operating in Ecuador."

Well, not exactly true. Chevron bought Texaco the past, when the events occured, Texaco (now Chevron) did operate. Presently, it may be true that Chevron does not currently operate in Ecuador.

In any case, 60 Minutes had a series on this issue and it might be good to go give it a looksee....

you can find it on youtube at

Chevron - Ecuador by 60 Minutes


Chevron admits that it caused spills and had an agreement with the Ecuadorian government (while Texaco) to "clean up" the spills. They say that they are only responsible for 40% of the spills since they were a minority partner. However, they were the "operator" of the fields. Under US law I am told that makes them fully responsible. In other words, if they did that here on the soil of the U.S. they would be fully accountable.

PetroEcuador was really the venture partner (an often used device in developing countries to allow foreign entities to do business thru a nationalized company). For me it is really who is responsible? Who had the know how? Who failed to assure that they were operating responsibly. So often we see that the environmental and social costs are ignored as a "cost"....I could go on but it would probably sound like I pulled up a soapbox.

I think there are two sides here and most often those with the money can tend to slant the story to their view. Call me a cynic but my bet is that a settlement will be the outcome, lawyers will become rich, and the folks really affected by the actions of Texaco -> Chevron will not receive just compensation.

Tommyvee -- I represent the Amazon Defense Coalition. Would it be possible for us to discuss your experiences in more detail. You can reach me at


I totally, completely agree with you, Tommyvee. This post is a shame for TOD.


And this:

"Chevron can take care of itself, and certainly will, and does not need TOD pages to protect it."

is very well put.

It is a bit difficult to work up a big tear for the extremely rich and powerful Chevron because "it's story isn't being told." They have millions to pay for do this. Using this site for it clearly does not do much for their story (so far nearly all posters are somewhere between disappointed and downright hostile), and severely compromizes the legitimacy of this site.

And when it comes down to it, legitimacy is the only currency a site like this has.

Frankly some lawsuits are about making money in New York rather than injustice in Ecuador.

As a non-lawyer, I don't see how logically a US court can decide on conditions in other countries.

They just want to force an out-of-court settlement based on PR.

Petroecuador is responsible for remediation and the plight of their own citizens. It would seem to me that foreign corporations in minority status would not be liable for ANY environmental damages. I would imagine that when you sign up as a minority partner you are transfering legal responsibility to the majority partner in writing.

It would seem to me that foreign corporations in minority status would not be liable for ANY environmental damages.

This a perfect example of "Privatize the profits, socialize the losses." So a corporation can extract profits from Ecuador, but if those profits are obtained in an illegal and even lethal manner, face no consequences?
I don't know what ethical or legal system this idea makes sense under, but I know that the real world consequence would be massive environmental damage.

Anyone with experience of private enterprise knows that the need to generate profits will push corporations to operate at the limits of law (if they don't a competitor will), just as football player uses every inch inside the sideline (a player who left a 10 foot buffer would surely lose).

So no financial consequences for environmental damage means that financial logic will force corporations to damage the environment whenever financially advantageous. If they don't, another corporation will.

It's a legal system, not an ethical one.

Ethics are whatever you personally believe, legality is whatever the court believes within the interpretation of law(a little rough justice). And after-the-fact justice is illogical as it is impossible to find guilt.

Do you believe stealing from Chevron shareholders is ethical?

If you're a minority owner and it's Petroecuador's job to remediate you're off the hook.
You're giving Petroecuador a free pass, sue them(heh..heh)--doesn't Petroecuador make a profit? Look at the Soviet Union if you want to see the consequences of environmental irresponsiblity.

Private enterprise generally plays by the rules the government lays out, though it usually plays on and slightly over the line.
And government is a very poor writer of rules, largely due to the 'help' of lawyers/lobbyists.

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers". - (Henry VI,Act IV, Scene II).

I believe that Chevron shareholders should pay in full, with interest and a 300% surcharge (forgot legal term) for the damage done to the people that Texaco deliberately poisoned.

If a reasonable man, in the 1970s, would know (see my engineer) that dumping produced water i.e toxic soup, into rivers that people drank from, and ate fish from, would harm people, then Texaco is fully liable. Even *IF* regs of Ecuador allowed it (see bribery & other influences foreign companies can have).

Best Hopes for a "Pennzoil" size judgment#,


In Pennzoil, no one was physically hurt, just some stock market/shareholders affected. Never did quite see what harm was done, but a Houston Texas jury awarded Pennzoil $11 billion from Texaco.

Pennzoil (Texaco)$11 billion dollar lawsuit had nothing to do with poisoning or the environment but about the fight over the acquisition of
Getty Oil so you must mean something else (except that it does show how stupid juries are).

Since Magna Carta, you can't simply steal property because of errors or negligence or Acts of God or whatever it was you call 'poisoning' in the name of justice.

"Pennzoil (Texaco)$11 billion dollar lawsuit had nothing to do with poisoning or the environment"

Ummmmm, that was his point. If a fight over an acquisition deal can get lead to and $11 million case, shouldn't a suit involving the poisoning of people and destruction of the environment lead to much more serious consequences?

I would suggest taking away their corporate status.

Magna Carta has no immediate relevance to courts outside the English Common Law tradition (just as the Napoleonic Code has no relevance outside Louisiana in the USA).

The concept of justice can have more weight in those courts outside the English tradition, and that is not a bad thing IMO.


PS: Why do Americans assume that everyone is like them ? And our traditions and way of doing things are not only the best, but the only legitimate way of doing things ?

Chevron/Texaco obviously thought Ecuadorian Law was better than US law or they would not have spent many years moving the venue.

tommyvee -

While I am not an environmental lawyer, I have been involved in a number of large hazardous waste site investigation and remediation projects.

I don't know if you're from the US or not or whether you are familiar with the way liability is assigned for abandoned waste sites, but I can tell you outright that (in the US at least) being a minority partner in a joint venture that results in environmental damage does NOT automatically get you off the hook, irrespective of what sort of previous agreements were in place between the various parties to the joint venture.

In other words, there is a great deal of legal precedent in the US for holding all parties potentially liable, regardless of who was supposed to be contractually responsible for making sure that nothing bad happened. As such, it is not easy to make one's environmental liability go away merely by putting words on paper. There are of course fine points of law that can lead to exceptions for specific cases, but in general that's the legal framework in the US.

The unfortunate thing is that very likely as much money will be spent on lawyers and consultants by the opposing parties fighting each other than will be spent on physically correcting the problem itself. The typical strategy of the potentially liable party(ies) is to drag things out as long as possible so as to avoid negative impact on cash flow and stock value. It is really all about money.

"very likely as much money will be spent on lawyers and consultants by the opposing parties fighting each other than will be spent on physically correcting the problem itself"

Nice point. But ultimately this all comes down to the super-person-hood of corporations. If a person in the US was responsible for multiple deaths, it is quite likely that he would get the death sentence.

But has a court ever handed down a death sentence for a corporation, no matter how heinous its crimes?

How about "3 strikes and you are out", like laws set up for other citizens. A Corp commits 3 felonies, and it assets are seized, company dissolved, and proceeds used to clean up oil spills in Ecuador.
On second though, why stat behaving like some bankrupt states?
Bad idea.

The catch is that State of Ecuador and its company Petroecuador got most of the profits from the oil operations. (TexPet was deeply involved with putting in the infrastructure, but by the time there was much actual production, Ecuador started getting taxes and royalties and Petroecuador quickly became a majority partner.) According to Chevron's accounting, there were about $25 billion of profits generated while TexPet operated in Ecuador. Of these profits, 95% ($24.5 billion) went to the Republic of Ecuador (as taxes or royalties) or to Petroecuador. Only $490 million went to TexPet.

If Ecuador received most of the financial benefit of the operation, its case for obtaining monies from Chevron for environmental damages is very much reduced.

its case for obtaining monies from Chevron for environmental damages is very much reduced.

If, after removing lead paint from my house, I save $300 in dumping fees (at a licensed EPA landfill) by dumping the lead paint scrapings in Gail's yard. There the lead paint dust causes peripheral neuropathy (lose of feeling and pain in her feet) in Gail and causes retardation in her neighbor's child, is my liability limited to the $300 I saved ?

I am not a lawyer, but the principle that one's liability is limited to the amount of money one makes/saves from some action seems ridiculous.

Texaco, to save on re-injection costs, dumped toxic, carcinogenic waste into people's source of drinking water and food (fish). VERY similar to my disposal of lead paint.

Gail, their is no "catch" except that Texaco acted immorally and criminally. That others also acted immorally & criminally does *NOT* reduce Texaco's guilt or liability.


If, after removing lead paint from my house....

Then you committed a crime(as of last year), dude.

Your idea of fixing old environmental issues by the courts is DOOMED.

Old lawsuits never die.
Remember your Dickens(Bleak House).

Gail -

You say, "If Ecuador received most of the financial benefit of the operation, its case for obtaining monies from Chevron for environmental damages is very much reduced."

Not necessarily so. Who got the profits and how much is essentially immaterial to the core issues of who caused the environmental damage, why normally accepted means of environmental protection were not in place, and who is liable for said damage.

If one were to follow your reasoning to its logical conclusion, then if Chevron lost money on that venture, it would have zero liability. (Or to take it to a higher level of absurdity, maybe even have money coming to it?)

As I myself have no connection or interests with either Chevron or Equador, it matters not a whit to me who finally gets what financially. Rather, what I think is of far more importance is that the problem be corrected in a speedy and effective way and that the damaged parties be fairly compensated by whomever.

See Valdez fishermen damaged about 25 years ago by Exxon for how interested major oil companies are in speedy justice. AFAIK, not one dollar paid yet.


Alan -- I represent the Amazon Defense Coalition. I would like to talk with you about your knowledge of Texaco's actions in Ecuador. Could you possibly email me at

Alan -


That is what galls me about this whole ugly Chevron/Ecuador matter.

During my career as an environmental consultant, I've had plenty of opportunity to see this same sort of thing firsthand. One thing I've noticed and which has always puzzled me is that large corporations will usually prefer to spend millions on lawyers and consultants rather than spend the exact same amount of money actually correcting the problem they caused. I suspect it's a matter of macho, bravado, and arrogance. Plus, they are loathe to set a precedent.

The other thing that these large corporation and their lawyers and PR consultants are very good at doing is to infiltrate and co-opt the issues that they feel threatened by. Thus, they get involved with foundations and think tanks, fund all sorts of 'independent' studies, seminars, and public outreach programs (and sponsor trips for people like Gail) just to keep some play in the game and to have a chance at defining the debate to their own advantage. These efforts are seldom overt, and often one has to probe beneath the surface to see what sort of sneaky stuff is really going on.

This actually less about the actual costs, with the main point being disempowerment of peoples action and political powers. . A win here will show that this criminal behavior can be fought against and won, and this has corps like Chevron quivering in their boots.

Gail, as another example of your failure to properly report -- the 490m profit was booked to Texpet, Texaco's fourth-tier subsidiary.  Texaco itself made about 30 billion in profits from Ecuador.  If they had used proper methods consistent with standards they were using the U.S., they would have made about 22b in profit.  That is, they could have respected the environment AND made obscenely high profits in Ecuador.  Too bad you didn't clarify these with your handlers.

I'm with Tommyvee on this one.

Gail. I'm disappointed that you have allowed yourself to become a mouthpiece for the corporate resource extraction industry. You have been a credible voice here on TOD which is, I am sure, why they chose you for the self-defense tour. But I for one am not buying it. I am afraid you have damaged your crediblility here by uncritically taking the industry side.

I guess pollution is no longer an issue now that Canada is polluting native lands to an unconscionable degree and even Obama is on board with mountaintop removal.

Where are the indigenous to go for relief if not the courts, and what if the industry can outspend them by tens of millions and try to influence opinion leaders like yourself?

Forgive my bias, but, having seen the kind of damage these guys do to a natural area, my heart doesn't bleed for Chevron.

As a life-long Louisiana resident, I've seen how the drillers operate. I've also seen the kind of damage their exploratory canals have done to the Louisiana wetlands, essentially perforating them and allowing salt-water intrusion, thereby weakening the marsh grasses that anchor the wetland and precipitating coastal erosion. While the damage may have been inevitable due to the diversion of the Mississippi River and the subsequent loss of replenishing sediments, the methods of the oil industry have only accelerated the process.

I tell you this because I believe in a stated bias before I make my position known. Having said that, I'd like to address the merits of your arguments above. You begin first by comparing this lawsuit to one which is completely irrelevant other than it was a group of native Ecuadorans pursuing a lawsuit against a large American company for alleged unethical practices in agriculture and/or resource extraction. Beyond that, the two cases have nothing in common and are therefore of no consequence in defining any sort of legal precedent in this particular matter. What Dole did may well have been legal, but legal and unethical are not mutually exclusive; a fact you would do well to remember when reporting on civil cases.

You then go on to say:

"It seems to me that the Amazon lawsuit is filled with myths, misunderstandings, and out-and-out lies."

Your redress of these myths does nothing to ascertain either the truth about the case, or even really adequately explain the heart of the matter. The first three myths you outline, of which I have no idea who is perpetuating these myths, seem to be a flimsy attempt at discrediting the lawyers involved by outlining their perceived lack of credibility, ties to other firms involved in somewhat similar cases, and ties to the ADC, none of which are illegal or even terribly unethical. Perhaps Mr. Fojardo himself does believe that Texaco is in some way tied to his brother's death, but he says that he has no way of proving it. All he says is that when he began the case, his brother was murdered. If Texaco or some official with Texaco did in fact pay to have his brother murdered, I seriously doubt they would be so daft as to use the company letterhead. A lack of evidence does not deny motive. Texaco, or some official associated with them, would certainly have good reason to try to scare Mr. Fojardo off and this wouldn't be the first instance in which a major corporation, or some official thereof, was involved in an act of violence against a perceived agitator.

As for the harassment, you summarize yourself with: "While I don't have direct evidence to show that all of these allegations are false...". I feel that about sums it up. The allegations of harassment are neither proven nor denied.

The 5th Myth states the ambiguity of the alleged damage to the rainforest. While it is unclear if the damage was done by PetroEcuador or Chevron, I find it equally likely that, in the absence of stated records showing the coordinates of past drilling sites (other than a bunch of dots on top of each other on a map and a few pictures of cows in fields), that Chevron or PetroEcuador could try to "pass the buck" one way or the other.

Finally, you say here: "We also stopped and talked to PetroEcuador workers at a site they were cleaning up...Everything we were told indicated that they were using exactly the same clean-up technique that TexPet had used in 1995 to 1998, that ADC is now criticizing."

And to whom did you speak? Was there a anyone around overseeing the work? Did you just talk to a bunch of guys with shovels or was there a representative from PetroEcuador, a soil specialist, or someone who could answer specific questions? What evidence do you present that the methods of PetroEcuador or insufficient, and does the ADC criticize the clean-up technique or the fact that the clean-ups are destroying the evidence upon which they have built their case, which you imply with the inclusion of the El Telegrafo and La Hora quotes in your graphic?

I'm sorry, but your article is full of accusations and thin on facts. Perhaps the tactics of the ADC are the same, but fighting slander with slander does little to help us ascertain the truth.

I think that is the heart of the issues...

If Gail had not taken the money -- go her on ways, do her own independent research w/out anyone from Chevron point her here and there -- I would be okie with the verdict. But the fact is that it's was paid by Chevron and that left a bad stain on whatever she will say -- just or not just. Also, Gail might be corrected in some facts but understand this is a complicated case.

Also, another point I want to make is this. You have an abnormal family (Ecuador) -- there are some fighting among the brothers -- for the brothers, seeing each other getting beat up by the family is "normal" abuse. But when Mr TexPet comes and abuses brother Josef -- all hell breaks loose. I am pretty sure Ecuadorians know that PetroEcuador is not a good brother, but they won't have satisfaction until they kicked Mr. TexPet's butt to the moon.

respectfully this has nothing to do with the Ecuadorians wanting to get even with Texaco. It is all about the lawyers who contrive these class action suits making millions. If they were only interested in pointing out that a wrong had been done their legal case is almost air tight going after Petro Ecuador (good luck in an Ecuadorian court). On the other hand the class action suit lawyers know where the deep pockets are....hence take the harder but much more lucrative course and play fast and loose with the truth.
I suspect you would have never have heard of any of this if indeed the lawyers involved were properly limited in how much money they can take out of any settlement or award. The parties to the class action will see very little out of this.

Yes and No -- Most poor Ecuadorians wouldn't know where to begin, where and how to take their grievances to ask for justice. Regardless of what the motive of the trial lawyers are, the questions are
1) Did Chevron (or TexPet) contaminate?
2) Did they do a good enough clean up?
3) Even if they do a good enough clean up, did people suffer because of previous spill?

Like I said, most Ecuadorians know how bad PetroEcuador is. But that doesn't mean TexPet isn't a bad guy.
We all know that the trial lawyers will make like bandits in this case. But if this kind of pressure is needed to change corporate America, I am all for it. If it forced Chevron to have a "human right" clause in how they do their business I am for it.
About the "play fast and loose with the truth" comment, I believe Chevron is competent enough to rip those apart in court if there are any. With their billion dollar coffin, they should have enough competent lawyers running about. Since the plaintiffs probably don't have the dough to send any of us to Ecuador on a fact finding trip, I had to defer to see both sides in court laying out their arguments.

The 5th Myth states the ambiguity of the alleged damage to the rainforest. While it is unclear if the damage was done by PetroEcuador or Chevron, I find it equally likely that, in the absence of stated records showing the coordinates of past drilling sites (other than a bunch of dots on top of each other on a map and a few pictures of cows in fields), that Chevron or PetroEcuador could try to "pass the buck" one way or the other.

There is no issue of Chevron or PetroEcuador trying to pass the buck. The problem is ADC trying to pass off what is PetroEcuador's responsibility as Chevron's responsibility. If the reporters had stopped and talked to PetroEcuador, there would be no question.

Regarding discussions with workers, these admittedly did not include the higher level folks in the home office. But it does give a point of reference, and I am passing it on for what it is.

I am sorry I was not able to cover more points in this post. It was getting overly long as it was. The issue is complicated. It is not surprising that reporters have tended to just take ADC's word for what the situation is.

Thanks for bringing us this story from poor oppressed corporate America, these are people that need a voice. Perhaps some donations could be collected to make sure that the shareholders don't loose too much money.

And by the way, what makes you think the Dole case in California was in any way a fair trial?

And by the way, what makes you think the Dole case in California was in any way a fair trial?

Because the big corporation (Dole) won... Doesn't those with money always win? Hey, they paid big bucks to win, either with lawyers or with judges. Isn't the highest bidder alway won?

In Chevron case, they were hoping to win with their own "bought-and-paid-for" judges and officials of the government. But they didn't expect a regime change in Ecuador.

I think there is a new film out -- Crude.

Chevron is a bit nervous -- I haven't watched the film -- but since the case is pending, it won't be a good publicity for Chevron. They are trying to launch a pre-emptive strike against the plaintiff with the public.

I don't know why Gail even bother with this. Surely, Chevron with their billions dollar budget and armies of lawyers and researchers should fight their own fight. Hey, even their CEO refused to talk to 60 minutes. The last thing we need is "TOD-expert" testifying for Chevron -- do you think Chevron will talk about all the bribes they gave in Ecuador? What "illegal methods" they used? etc... Please wise up... For Chevron to spend $40 Million and think they finished "cleaning" up the place is a joke.

During Gail's trip, I wonder how many others were on that same trip? I think Chevron is flying "visitors" down there for a look. If the North Korea or Burma (Chevron is operating here) were to show a group of visitors how great their country, you'll think they will show you the prisons and concentration camps?

During Gail's trip, I wonder how many others were on that same trip?

I was asked if I was interested in going. I declined, mainly because of the issues Gail is dealing with in this thread. If I came away truly believing that Chevron is in the right, I will have a hard time convincing anyone that I am being objective since Chevron paid for the trip. I would have probably been given a harder time than Gail given that I used to work for the oil industry. So I figured I better pass on this one.

I would have also insisted on talking to the other side. Not sure whether Gail had the opportunity to do that.

Thanks Robert,
If it's not a hassle, could you please elaborate a little bit more for us. I am interested how Chevron go about doing this -- who do they select (a few US Senators if they're not so busy -- my guess)? what do Chevron plan for the trip, sites to see & presentations & etc...? How many days were the planned trip? Etc...

Needless to say, we understand their objectives -- but if they really think they are not at fault -- why not have an "independent group" doing facts check w/out ANY strings attached?
Chevron could if they chose to advertise in NY-Times or The-Oil-Drum for such organization if they really "want" the truth. Sure, it will cost them a few millions -- but won't that be a better PR they can buy? Instead of going the back-channel and "paying" a trip for this/that senator or this/that expert.

The others on that trip were Roger Alford who is a law professor at Pepperdine University and Carter Wood, who writes a blog for the National Manufacturers Association. Both had been following the case extensively before the trip.

With respect to talking to the other side, there is a whole lot of material on the web put out by the other side. I have looked at a lot of that material, and it includes a whole lot of misrepresentations. I have also looked at prior published articles, such as the Vanity Fair article and various Donziger interviews and testimony.

I also wrote to the Amazon Defense Coalition with some questions, but never got any answers back.

I think I understand the arguments on the other side well enough. I also am not certain I am comfortable dealing with these individuals.

Gail, no one on our team saw any questions from you - but if you have them, please feel free to ask.

And while I understand that you might not "be comfortable dealing" with us, you may be surprised - I'm an attorney in good standing, I've never been convicted of a crime, I generally say "please" and "thank you," and I rarely bite. Who knows - if you had taken the time to actually speak to anyone on our team you might find out that we're reasonable people just working on behalf of a people who have been systematically taken advantage of over the past thirty years.

I also am not certain I am comfortable dealing with these individuals.

And you claim objectivity?

Actually, she never claimed any such thing.

What's more concerning is that the Mission Statement of this site includes "Conducting original research in a transparent manner." I don't think this post fits the transparency mold very well at all.

It's transparent, in that she revealed her corporate connections.

It's not original research, in that everything she said was prepared for her by Chevron.

I also wrote to the Amazon Defense Coalition with some questions, but never got any answers back.

A proper journalist would have placed this sentence prominently in the original post.

I also am not certain I am comfortable dealing with these individuals.

But your comfortable smearing them in public? How cowardly. I'm losing respect for you by the minute...

"god bless the humble and the pure" said the preacher.

"and don't forget the texas company" said a voice from the back of the church.

this was during the depression where the only jobs to be had were with humble(exxon),pure(acquired by union) and the texas company(texaco).

I don't want to comment on the substance of the article, since it doesn't seem central to peak oil or sustainability.

I admire Gail's work, but I think here she is getting on thin ice.

One has to decide whether one is going to be a public relations person or a journalist seeking the truth. For journalists to maintain their reputation, they must never accept significant gifts from the entities on which they are reporting. **Never**

Accepting an expense-paid trip from Chevron automatically disqualifies Gail from reporting on the subject. If she were reporting for a news organization, she might well be fired.

TOD is a community of bloggers, not journalists, and the ethics are not yet clearly defined. But I don't think this is a good direction for TOD to go.

Secondly, on such a controversial issue as this, it is critical to present the viewpoints of all sides. Even if one sympathizes with one side, a competent journalist will make sure to give a fair picture.

Thirdly, one has to be careful with rich and powerful organizations. It is very easy to fall under their sway without realizing it. Good journalists are on their guard against this.

As I say, I have respected Gail's work in the past, and I hope to see that sort of work again.

FWIW, I have a masters degree in journalism and have practiced the profession as a reporter, editor and teacher for a number of years.

Energy Bulletin

Well said. In full agreement.

Embedding journalists with soldiers leads to biased reportage. No question. This is no different.

Beyond the pale...

At this point, our system of investigative reporting is falling apart. This was one of Chevron's big concerns. Newspapers are cutting staffs, and what little staff is left has zero time for reporting on anything other than what they get from press releases. There certainly are no funds to send journalists out to figure out what is really going on.

Chevron feels ( I think rightly) that their side of the story is not being told. As I look at the situation, it seems to me that the "free" version of the story is the one the Amazon Defense Coalition is putting out. As a result, everyone is telling this story, and it is widely available on the web. This doesn't make for balanced reporting, it just gives the impression that it is balanced. If there aren't funds available, do we just accept the situation that the free version of the story gets 95% of the press, especially if it is popular, and it is the story everyone wants to hear?

I made it clear up front in the post Chevron paid for my trip. I don't know how one gets at the truth, unless a few people are willing to do the hard digging. I have certainly read the other side of the story--it is hard to avoid it in the press. I wrote to the ADC and asked some questions, but they never responded.

If it is any consolation, I am sure Chevron considers me a thorn in their side. I haven't taken "because we say so" as an answer on anything. I have tried to get documentation on everything, from outside sources. It seems to me that the blogs somehow need to get the real story out, even if it isn't popular, and our current funding mechanism doesn't work well. If we have to accept someone paying for our trip, but disclose it up front, that is better than the alternative of just leaving endless repetition of a false story filling our news pages, because the untrue story is easy to obtain and fits in well with everyones' preconceptions.

You made it sound like ADC with its way smaller budget is the Goliath in this case. Why is it that Chevron concern now? Wasn't last year when they were lobbying the Bush administration to force Ecuador dropping this case by putting conditions into the trade talk? Hey, who need the truth when the case could go away!!! Their gamble is someone else not Obama would win the Presidency. Another gamble that didn't go their way.

By playing Chevron as a helpless victim -- my goosh. I can't believe this. Poor Chevron, can't defend themselves with their few hundred billions war chest.

Chevron feels ( I think rightly) that their side of the story is not being told.

Yeah -- tell that to Chevron's CEO... I think CBS's 60 minutes would talk to him if he really want to sit down and talk. Here is an example of how Chevron is playing with the PR :

When Chevron Hires Ex-Reporter to Investigate Pollution, Chevron Looks Good

Did you go with the intend of finding what bad things Chevron did and didn't find any? or just visiting some sites that Chevron "cleaned" up -- so everything is nice and hunky-dory.
If you happen to tell Chevron -- "give me all the materials" -- you think Chevron would send you anything would give them a bad name? I just don't get it. You might think you see all the materials but you are not -- by coming out and attacking the Ecuadorian courts, the "expert" doesn't really help. This "offensive" behaviour is just not right. It would be better to go to "supposed" contaminated sites and take your own independent samples -- do the test -- check the cancer rate of the population nearby and do correlation.

Of course, that is just too much work and it's unreasonable to ask you to do so. That is my point -- in the end -- our information is biased and incomplete. We all would want to see the evidence -- but both sides are not interested in it.

I understand your concern about getting out Chevron's side of the story, Gail, but I think you are walking into a field of landmines. As Robert Rapier explained his reason for declining the trip:

If I came away truly believing that Chevron is in the right, I will have a hard time convincing anyone that I am being objective since Chevron paid for the trip.

As a writer, your credibility is your stock in trade, and taking gifts from an oil company is something to be avoided at all costs.

There is a funny psychological dance that occurs between PR people and journalists. When one accepts a gift, one tends to identify with the giver and try to give something in return. The PR people know this, and are highly skilled at manipulating journalists.

This is why journalistic ethics forbids accepting gifts. News organizations disapprove of the practice, because it degrades their credibility. I suspect blogs that aim to be taken seriously will develop similar codes of ethics.

It's ironic that your contacts profess concerns over the fall in investigative reporting. Chevron is a descendant of Standard Oil, which was the target of the original muckrakers (investigative journalists). Ida Tarbell's 1904 classic The History of the Standard Oil Company is rated one of the top works of American journalism and helped lead to the breakup of Standard Oil in 1911.)

Bart / EB

Good point. The LAST thing companies like Chevron want is more real investigative journalism.

It goes beyond ethics. It is just basic common sense that you don't take money from someone you are "investigating." Why is that hard to understand?

Would you trust someone who said they were "investigating" this issue who got an all expenses paid trip by the other side and never once talked to anyone from Chevron? I hope not! And if not, why can't you see that the same applies here.

I'm really sorry you got yourself into this, and even more sorry that you decided to present it as a lead article on this site.

Now is the time to apologize for the oversight (we all make mistakes, and my impression is that most here would be sympathetic to such an apology), and promise never to do so again.

Would that be so hard? In the interest of the integrity of the site? Or is this issue more important to you than the integrity of the site, and the integrity of everything on PO you have been working on so diligently for the last how many years?

This whole dustup is over-the-top political correctness.
Perhaps TOD should only produce one point of view(the PC one).

I for one want to know what the oil companies think(although I regularly attack Big Oil). It's important to understand the political/legal obstacles to increasing world oil/gas/etc. production.

Journalistic integrity is just preening narcissism.

I hope that Gail will continue to give us all a view into the real world of energy and damn the multitude of sanctimonius readers of TOD.

You HATE Big Oil beyond reason?
Okay, boycott all petroleum products, you hypocrites.

Wow! What a bizarre reaction!

Did anyone say anything about hate? "Over-the-top" is a pretty good description of your own post. When ever people start using terms like "PC," it's a clear sign that the conversation has gone beyond reasoned discussion into mindless sloganeering.

Good luck with that.

I for one want to know what the oil companies think

That's easy. Oil companies, like all large publicly-traded companies, think, "Leave us alone to make heaps of money." Or "We want to minimise costs and maximise profits with no public accountability." There's no great mystery there. We don't need to waste depleting fossil fuels and disturb the climate flying people to Ecuador to find that out.

A quick note from a hotel lobby. We have 25 volunteers on staff here, all with disparate skills and interests. As those who follow this site know, we put up free form content related to energy based solely on the contributions of authors (i.e. there is no grand plan or schedule). The internet is in many ways replacing conventional information/media like newspapers, magazines etc. but it is not perfect. Gail has put an enormous amount of time and effort into supporting this blog when others couldn't have done it due to time constraints - as such she has earned the right to post/write on issues that she chooses.

I have actually not yet read this article but based on a flood of complaints to our editors box, I wanted to insert a quick comment. I don't know the facts in this Chevron case and am certainly no corporate fan, but I for one am tired of people blaming oil companies for our woes. Corporations from all industries have mostly followed similar path dependent trajectories since WWII based on rules they were given -these companies are largely made up of well intentioned hard working good people. It is the system itself which has, via baby steps, moved well away from social equilibrium - I think it past time to take personal responsibility for our consumption instead of blaming those who provide us with what we consume.

I'm not ecstatic that this post is on TOD the way it now reads, but peak oil is no longer (nor was it ever) just about the date of peak and steepness of subsequent decline. Equity, distribution, environment, indigenous rights, biodiversity, non-energy inputs, geopolitics, finance, etc. are all now intertwined in a complex accelerating social system. Gail gave her perspective on what she was shown - which may or may not have been an adequate view of this situation. If any of you know any actuaries, you know they don't come to conclusions lightly...;-) I have a friend who works with the Ecuadorians on keeping their oil in the ground and have invited him to do a guest post.

This is a great blog, one that continues forward via almost entirely on social capital.


Corporations from all industries have mostly followed similar path dependent trajectories since WWII based on rules they were given -these companies are largely made up of well intentioned hard working good people. It is the system itself which has, via baby steps, moved well away from social equilibrium - I think it past time to take personal responsibility for our consumption instead of blaming those who provide us with what we consume.

Enforcement of environmental laws is pretty much the only way to make corporations clean up their act. Court cases are an inherent part of environmental enforcement. Certainly, corporations are "largely made up of well intentioned hard working good people" but historically, only the force of law has caused those good people to reduce their impacts (anyone who wants to see the "free market" at work should come look at the acid-leaching mines scattered all over the western US, now being cleaned up slowly at public expense).
Taking personal responsibility for consumption and enforcing environmental law are not at all mutually exclusive, but are instead synergistic.

Although I disagree strongly with Gail's conclusions, I strongly support her right to post on TOD and I appreciate her forthright disclosure of Chevron's financial support. As an engineer who spent decades working for large corporations, I want to echo HighTrekker's concern that travel inside the bubble of airports, luxury hotels, SUVs, and corporate PR flacks creates a very different perception than walking through the toxic mud with the local inhabitants.

No one is proposing to punish the "good people" working at Chevron, but rather financial consequences for the Chevron corporation. We should ask ourselves, will Chevron be more careful about future environmental impacts if it loses this case, or if it wins? As an investor, I recognize that an inherent risk for multi-national oil companies is the political, legal, and infrastructure situations in countries where they extract oil. My guess is that West Texas is correct, and that countries will be increasingly hostile to corporations hoping to extract and export their irreplaceable oil. Ecuador is just the tip of the iceberg, and Venezuela and Nigeria are probably the harbingers of the future. Caveat Emptor.

'-these companies are largely made up of well intentioned hard working good people.'

This is not true. It may have been more true in the past but not now.

Tell it to those in Eastern Ky as the very mountain tops are being destroyed.Tell it to those who live near the Mississippi. Tell it to those who creeks run yellow with runoff where they strip mine the coal in Central Ky. Been there. Seen it. Don't remember seeing any 'good ole boyz' Executives there.

I really don't care too much about Equador. I care about HERE. The USA and I live near major major pollution that it brought OFF by the Execs(good ole boys) so the folks and environment suffer by not those living in the Gated Communites.

They don't put on their beaks and get down a peck shit with the rest of us chickens. They need to. But they won't and don't.

I respect Gail's posts in the past but she should have paid her own way on this one. Or at least given equal voice to those who are trying to make the opposite case.

Airdale-I retired from a major Corp after 30 years. As I left I made the comment being what it had become that I would never applied or accepted now. Its become just that bad in CorpoAmurkah.
I am glad I worked for them when they treated employees with respect. That time is gone and went starting in the 90s.

Ohhhh wait...when you speak of 'good hardworking folks' then I thought

US...but you were speaking of the Chinese weren't you. The coolies who actually are the workers of those Corpos. Gotcha ya.


I don't know the facts in this Chevron case and am certainly no corporate fan, but I for one am tired of people blaming oil companies for our woes.

Oil companies cannot be blamed for our woes, but they can be blamed for the woes they caused. For example, polluting the water supply. Which is the subject of the article, and people's critiques of it.

I think it past time to take personal responsibility for our consumption instead of blaming those who provide us with what we consume.

As any follower of my blog will know, I'm all about personal responsibility. The best way to ensure fossil fuel companies don't pollute is to leave the fossil fuels in the ground, which we can accomplish by using less today, and eventually using none.

This applies to Gail, too, by the way. She doesn't mention how she got to the country or around in it, but I strongly suspect it wasn't a sailboat and then horse. I'm getting a bit of a Al Gore feeling here.

Anyway, the thing is that while we ask for the fossil fuels (or iron, or plastic toys, or whatever), we don't ask that they corrupt political and judicial institutions in other countries, and poison the people, too. None of us asked for that.

That came about because of the drive for corporate profits. The drive for profits means they follow the minimum standards enforced by law, and do no better. Thus the response, "well, maybe they poisoned the water, but it wasn't against the law then!" And corporations corrupt the political process by donations and bribes to ensure those regulations are minimised. As AlanfromBigEasy notes, Chevron did things in Ecuador recently that were illegal in Texas in 1936. They follow the minimum standards required of them locally, and lobby and bribe to ensure those standards are low.

We didn't ask them to do that. Their shareholders did.

So while we the public have some responsibility, the corporations and shareholders involved have some, too.

If I sell an angry man a gun, it's his responsibility when he shoots his friend. I probably should not have sold him the gun. But it's still his responsibility.

Likewise, we should not buy fossil fuels. But it's still the fossil fuel company's responsibility when they corrupt and pollute.

This is a great blog, one that continues forward via almost entirely on social capital.

The thing is that social capital is built by trust. And trust can be lost. Printing obvious corporate propaganda erodes trust, and then you find you have less social capital to spend.

Well put.

Nate wrote: "I for one am tired of people blaming oil companies for our woes."

This seems an odd audience for this sentiment. I have not seen a lot of "blaming oil companies for our woes" in posts here. Have I missed something?

Coming out with such a statement in the absence of any "people blaming oil companies" makes your biases even more suspect.

Does this mean that TOD will never do a piece critical of oil companies profiting in the fact of hardship all across the world? That, after all, is an point of view, too. If such views are completely off the table, but we will see more blindly promotional pieces like the above, maybe it's time for TOD to fold up the tent.

I am one who has greatly respected and believed Gail's work as that of a sincere and knowledgeable investigator. My first doubt came when I read her recent argument that shale gas drillers do not need to be regulated because there is practically no pollution attributable to their activities. That, I believe, is demonstrably false.

Perhaps Gail should consider resigning as an editor at TOD and instead contribute as an apologist for the industry.


It's true that some times you must get facts from people who are in a position to know facts and that means the oil industry.
She disclosed her sources and presented facts (much better than most media journalists IMHO). As far as I can see, she has maintained the necessary objectivity.

Of course, writing the essay took a lot of effort also.

It shows a lack of maturity and sophistication in some of the responses here.

Those who are 'troubled' by serious topical inquiry should limit themselves to investigating their navels( dreaming about orbiting solar stations, flying wind turbines or ocean thermal conversion).

I hope to see more such posts by Gail.

Well, I guess after 18 rebuttals by Gail, one anemic admission by her that her piece has nothing to do with peak oil, plus a resounding "heckuva job, Brownie" by Nate, that we must indeed be mistaken. The message is clear: "Get over it, this is the new Oildrum"

I share the concerns of those worried about the credibility of the Oil Drum,but there IS a disclaimer up top that the piece is Gail's-and I haven't heard anyone say that some other staffer is not free to take up the opposide side of the issue.

I believe that Gail has turned up enough suspicious looking facts(so far as I can tell) to give her the benefit of the doubt and I for one am willing to withhold judgement until others who have had thier feet on the ground recently have thier say. Gail is not a reporter but a volunteer donating her time,and I doubt VERY SERIOUSLY that we would know as much about this issue as we do,or that it would even have come to the attention of most of us,had she not taken advantage of the compnay offer.

My first reaction when I hear of corporate misdeeds is always to presume on the basis of historical experience that the plutocrats and the bureaucrats are enjoying another little roll in the hay at the expense of the rest of us but this is not always true.

Any cop with a sense of humor will tell you that in any domestic dispute there are three stories-herstory,history,and the true story.

I am forced to come to the defense of my extended due family occasionally due to the fact that a distant cousin,a known adherent of an alternative ethical system that is held by some in poor repute,has on occasion been found to be engaged in business enterprises that have cuased people to invest considerable sums in better locks and higher insurance premiums.(Please note that this IS good for the economy,because it provides work for jailers,cops,social workers,lawyers,judges,
reporters,fences,locksmiths and probably some others I have overlooked.The total impact on the GDP must be considerable.If we could just get a training program started for such earnest and ambitious young men,and help them buy a new car with a big tax credit so they could get around faster w/o attracting so much attention with thier decrepit cars,I bet the recession would be over in a flash!)

The only defense I can offer is that he has undoubtedly done many of the things he is accused of w/o evidence,but that he is only x years old and will need at least another decade to commit as many sins as he presently stands convicted of in the court of public opinion.

I myself have been the victim of a legal scam.A car stopped unexpectedly in front of me once and of course I hit it in the rear.

Automatically my fault.

I had a hard time understanding why the Henrico County,Va police were so soft spoken and considerate,as at that time they had the reputation of being rather abrupt with out of town youths driving older raggedy cars-especially if they caused an accident at dinnertime or caused them to be late for the kids little league game.

Charged me w/reckless driving nevertheless.

Judge was pretty hard on me -
until he found outthe lady was not in court-
the law precluded THE JUDGE from seeing HER record-
not relevant,might be prejudicial to justice or whatever

The cop went up to the bench and whispered to the judge.


He flapped his robes and his face turned purple and his eyes bulged out and he SCREAMED AT ME!!!!


Turned out the lady was a rear end collision specialist and I was her fifth victim.I later found out that she had sandwiched in number six between OUR accident and OUR court date.

Of course the cops knew all along.

My figures might be stale but some years ago the biggest single component of the price of a new step ladder was supposed to be the cost of liability insurance-around a THIRD of the purchase price.

One reason I have a hard time voting the D ticket is that the trial lawyers usually donate around nineteen times as much money to the democrats as they do to the republicans.Of course the republicans would figure out a way to make the cleanup look like a complete waste of time and money,and besides we all know that nearly all the stock belongs to elderly women and widows with small children,right?

.A busy court system is GOOD for the gdp!!!

So it is at least possible that Chevron is clean-technically at least.I wouldn't even be suprised if corporate money was budgeted and supposedly spent on the cleanup-there are probably ways the folks on the ground could have pocketed it.My GUESS is that both sides are guilty.

I am appalled at all of the TOD posters driving around in their automobiles spewing pollution, flying in airplanes to give lectures, heating and lighting their homes, and acting as if they don't know the source of the oil and coal that they waste. I suspect that if the wanna be rich tort lawyers could expect success from a legal action against every citizen owning a tailpipe, they would not hesitate to do so.

Responsible oil extraction occurs, as does irresponsible oil extraction. The courts of Ecuador will decide if Chevron (and/or Chevron-acquired entities) have civil or criminal liabilities for the environmental damage in Ecuador's Amazon basin.

The "idea" that use of oil products means that we should accept any and all acts that could occur during oil extraction does not bear even cursory reflection. All oil extraction and consumption has environmental impacts, but just because a judge drove a car to work does not mean that the Exxon-Valdez oil spill should have no consequence for those who were negligent.

I spend hours reading TOD every day. Rarely post. I find Gail's posts to be very informative.

A number of years ago I was a recipient of the class action award from the settlement of the overcharging by NW airline. The award was some worthless discount coupons. The lawyers walked away with their fees.

The peanut gallery says hello and hopes sincerely that the truth of the matter will eventually lead us to a solution that everybody can live with. Not one more person should have to suffer because nobody cared enough to say anything. Hopefully some good will come out of a posting like this and those of you with the means to will be able to help towards the truth. Which in the end is all you can search for in this little ball of a planet.

Gail: (or anyone else that has the answer)-Why should any reader of TOD be concerned that possibly (in the worst case scenario presented) Chevron is unfairly treated in a civil case? Who could care less? Maybe in an alternate universe, where corporate fraud and government corruption were not running amok in the USA, but in this one? The average USA taxpayer is on the hook for about $721000 in promised benefits at last count-nobody could care less about the eventual bankruptcy of the economy, why should they care about Chevron? This Chevron case brings to mind a documentary I saw a month ago about Mike Tyson named appropriately enough TYSON-in the film Mike says ( in regards to his rape trial and subsequent conviction) that he didn't do it. He admits that he assaulted OTHER women but not THAT ONE. Likely? No. Possible? Yes. The same applies to Chevron.

I think one aspect of this case is that in the view of a lot of people, an oil company is guilty until proven innocent--or perhaps just guilty period.

Somehow, people have lost their objectivity. Saying that the plaintiffs may very well be wrong in this case brings about a response similar to my saying that someone's religion may be wrong. It is not something that people can deal with. They just get upset, and lash out at the author.

I think somehow, people need to start understanding the way it really is. We can't just take the easy "truths" that are handed to you endlessly by people who have not taken the time to check out the real facts. Even if we sympathize with the poor and downtrodden, we can't assume that what is represented as their side is really right.

Gail, you're absolutely right - people shouldn't assume that the poor and downtrodden are automatically right. Even though in this case, I believe that the evidenced demonstrates that Chevron is responsible for the pollution in the area. Chevron disputes this - but this is why we're in a trial, which is how we, as a society, determines who is responsible. But Chevron doesn't want this, and they're using you as part of a campaign to label all of this a shakedown, in order to prevent any court from actually being able to rule on this issue.

All we're asking for is for a court to determine who is responsible here. Chevron has evidently taken the position that no court should be allowed to determine that they were responsible - first the U.S. courts were incompetent (in Chevron's view) to hear the case, now the Ecuadorian courts are. What court will they accept? All we're asking for is - after 16 years (the case was originally filed in 1993) - is for a court to decide if Chevron is responsible.

But Chevron has already determined that they're going to lose at trial. So rather than attempt to get ready to appeal the case with evidence that proves their point, they've launched an aggressive public relations campaign designed to try to discredit the court making the decision (I promise, they didn't pay for you to go to Ecuador just because they thought that you would enjoy the flora and fauna), all in an effort to undermine any judgment made.

Remember, they had the case moved to Ecuador, over our objections, in 2001 - because they said it was the right place to hear the case. Well, now, 6 years after that, and after Chevron has been afforded more due process than any other litigant in Ecuadorian history, the trial is finally coming to an end, so Chevron has decided to try to sully the reputation of the court hearing the case, the lawyers trying the case, and the people bringing the case.

Gail: I used the Tyson analogy because like Mike, Chevron has a checkered past-they have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar before-that doesn't prove this particular case, but you cannot expect "objectivity" from relatively disinterested observers whenever a rich, powerful corporation that has been caught breaking the law in the past fights with a bunch of shrimps. All this accomplishes is the riling up of support for the shrimps where none existed previously-I have never heard of these guys and already I admire their courage.

Gail wrote: "in the view of a lot of people, an oil company is guilty until proven innocent"

Maybe I missed it, but this has not been a common theme in posts on this board. Can you point to "a lot of people" posting things like this before your article above. If not, who are you addressing?

Creating such a straw man does nothing to strengthen your case.

As a lawyer working for the Amazon Defense Coalition, I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to read Gail’s account of this issue. It fundamentally misrepresents point after point and does not reflect either the reality of the legal claims against Chevron, or the situation on the ground. Perhaps most disheartening is that Gail never contacted any member of our team to get a different perspective. Obviously, it seems unfair to pass judgment on the entire issue (including on the morality of the lawyers involved and the people of the region) without ever talking to any of us. I think it’s fair to say this raises ethical and credibility issues.

We would have been happy to take Gail around the region for a day to explain our side of the story (it would have been perfect for her to let us know when she was down there with Chevron and she could have done what most other journalists do - visit the sites with Chevron and then visit the sites with us, in order to get both sides of the story). And that offer still, but I suppose that is an invitation she won’t take since we don’t pay for journalists to take trips.

In order to bring some perspective to this conversation, I would appreciate it if Gail would answer a few questions. So Gail:

1) Did you talk to any of the local residents who blamed Chevron for the environmental problems?

2) Did you visit any of the villages affected by oil operations, such Dureno or San Pablo, to hear first-hand accounts regarding Chevron’s operations in the region?

3) Did you take any soil samples, do any digging, or in any way investigate the areas that Chevron claims were effectively remediated or did you just rely on what Chevron told you? (Note that the evidence in trial suggests Chevron’s “remediation” was cosmetic only, and that oil contamination exists under the surface of the pits you were shown.)

4) Have you spoken to any independent experts to verify the validity of what Chevron is telling you about the sites, the oilfields, practices at the time, or, well, anything? Have you seen any original lab reports provided by Chevron about its own pits that show extensive contamination?

5) Did you try to contact Pablo Fajardo, or any members of the legal team, to get their perspective on the case? If so, who did your contact? (Nobody on our team has any awareness of any such efforts.)

6) Did it occur to you that even though Chevron paid for your trip, while in Ecuador you could have spent some with members of the communities who could have shown you a different point of view?
Gail (or anyone else), if you have any questions for us, please ask. I’ll do my best to keep my eye on this forum over the next day or so, or you can reach me at

I’ll do my best to keep my eye on this forum


(I smell a LAWSUIT.)

Well, what about Part 2?
Do we get to see more of Gail's stenographic skills, or do we put our foot down?

I say nix the rest of the series.

Concur here :-) ... I felt for Gail -- but I think in the interest of TOD and its goal -- we should rest this case with the court. Furthermore, I believe Chevron is big enough to defend itself.

I say nix this one, too. It's just an embarassment to TOD.

Yeah, I just noticed that there is no way to "flag" a lead story as "inappropriate."

This one would get my flag if there was.

As I comented already I totaly agree this article has nothing to do with the OIL DRUM, and only debases the site. Hope fully we will be spared a Part 2.
I am no not implying that Gail is not being objective, just there has to be a more appropiate site to post this on. We all know every one of the OIl Companys have broken the law at some time and everyone who ever filled their tank with gas is comlpacent.
This debate is getting vey tire some.
Ranking -10

Chevron had a chance to tell their side of the story on 60 minutes and let’s just say their spokesperson didn’t do a very good job. She got lost in all Chevron’s lies. All the manipulation, deceit and spin cannot erase the simple but powerful fact that the scientific evidence has proven the case against Chevron.

I hope you will post the other side of the story on your site as well! Till then, here’s an interesting blog:

If Gail has any sense, she will cut her losses on this one and spare us all Part 2. The alternative is additional damage to her reputation and to the credibility of this site, which she has worked hard to build.

Will a reputation for blatant censorship enhance the credibility of TOD?

Hmmm -- censorship -- hardly. Next week, we will have two special features: "The Good Things About Oil-sand" by Sunoco and "Clean Coal Makes Me Happy" by Peabody Energy.

Having watched the arguments by Chevron on CBS-60 minutes -- I would say that Gail is pretty much using the same exact arguments.

CBS Interviewer : What court do you want to be in?
Chevron : We don't want to be in any court...

And Chevron did try very hard to do just that -- just ask the Bush administration.

Well, if we can just succeed in destroying Chevron, Sunoco and Peabody Energy, we can let the DOE take over production of energy and all live happily ever after>

It was never stated, but the reader is left with the impression that was the nature of the post-i.e. what is good for Chevron is good for us, they are valuable to us, they might be bastards but they are OUR bastards, etc. etc. One of the problems with this post is that corn ethanol has often be opposed on this site and casual readers might combine the criticisms of corn ethanol with lead posts such as this one and conclude that this site lacks credibility or is biased toward big oil IMO.

If I submit a biased article to the TOD editors and my premise is not well supported, are they censoring me if they decline to post it?

If this series is appropriate, I think some air time for the opposition would be too, but I don't think that the ensuing firestorm would be good for TOD.

At this point, Gail has no credibility as far as I'm concerned. This began with her defense of asap drilling in ANWR purely from a corporate profitability perspective without due consideration of environmental or social issues. This last article by her was the nail in the coffin. It's a disservice to the Oildrum for her to be on the editorial board. Any article she submits in the future in that role will only be a distraction. I also think that this Chevron article ought to be removed. Such a decision will restore confidence in the quality and integrity of the site.

Gail writes interesting articles-we are all adults here, we don't need to slavishly follow TOD staff like sheep. She put out an article that got poorly received by the bloggers-we are the editorial board-no one needs guidance or censorship from a benign dictator TOD editorial board IMO.

dunewalker. Yes.

While I don't have direct evidence to show that all of these allegations are false

While you don't have any evidence, you should be silent.

There's a reason courts don't subpoena people who didn't see anything as witnesses.

Poor old Chevron, picked on by the nasty natives. Is this a Chevron press release? Does Gail have shares in Chevron?

Oh well, at least this explains the climate change denialism present in some TOD editors. It's in their financial and personal interest for us to keep burning fossil fuels. They get more trips to sunny places, and their share values rise.

The only reason I can understand about why Gail was picked by Chevron
was that they viewed her posts here on TOD.

Otherwise why would someone whose past or present is actuarial work be chosen?

Chevron is did so then surely Gail must have wondered exactly just why SHE was picked in lieu of others who were asked and declined for good reasons.

I wonder why she accepted. Shows very very bad judgment.

I shall henceforth subject her posts to far more scrutiny and possible bias.

It seems TOD has of late lost it's rudder. The Essay post on satellite power,lasers and beaming power back to earth were the stuff of science fiction. Very embarrassing to. I skipped most of it.

Some of the Campfires are not quite what one would expect to discuss sitting around a Real campfire. I thought there was something said about being of 'practical' value.


Not for nothing but manned flight at one time or another was considered science fiction and the stuff of fantasy. It might not be a campfire you'd like to sit at but there are those of us who still don't mind.

I spoke for Myself.

You try to act as though you are speaking for Others.

"there are those of us who still don't mind"

I don't think you are and its disingenuous to appear to do so.

Others can speak for themselves and are doing so.

Airdale-I worked in aeroscience back in the 60's. In rocket guidance systems. Its not a campfire. We didn't rub sticks together to obtain ignition either first or second stage.

Manned flight was not achieved through delusionality, but via a stepwise process of trial and error.

Many other things which were projected didn't pan out. For entertainment, look at the covers of Popular Science or Popular Mechanics from about 1940-1980.

Part of appreciating SciFi is recognizing SciFi.

It's good to know what's technically possible and impossible at any given time, very cool even. However, speculative projects which depend on a long series of new things going right, in sequence and on schedule, rapidly approach being probabilistically impossible. This elementary filter should be applied as a front-line reality check on any proposals which are presented as serious.

The "frozen head" and "inevitable technical singularity" thing should have been a hint, too, IMO, as long as I'm mentioning filters.



"Part of appreciating scifi is RECOGNIZING scifi" is the best single line I have run upon in quite a while and really says it all with no further elaboration needed.

Now personally I can't seem to resist trying to reason with true believers-maybe it's some kind of delayed reaction to being raised in a fundamentalist church.

The most intrigueing thing about a true believer is that he can be perfectly rational in every other respect excepting things related directly to his delusion- yet NOTHING can shake his faith.

Anyone interesting in this phenomenon can spend an evening in the company of Eric Hoffer,philosopher who has lived and worked in the nitty gritty of the real world.The title is The True Believer of course.

Ps I will die poor but I will have indulged my curiosity as to what makes the world go around.

I have no opinion on the merits of this lawsuit. I do take issue with the folks who say this is off topic for TOD. I used to live in Santa Barbara county before becoming Robert a Tucson, and environmental damage or the perception thereof is a big component in NIMBYism. If drilling is allowed off the California coast, the federal government get big tax dollars, the state of california gets big royalty checks, the bureau of the interior employees get free sex and cocaine, the oil companies get big profits, and the local santa barbaraites get the mess left behind.

I have lived in the Santa Barbara area for more than 40 years. The organization GOO (Get Oil Out) which was started after the 1969 spill is still in existence. I have walked of the beaches in and near Santa Barbara hundreds of times, both before and after the spill. The spill was cleaned up fairly quickly. There was always a problem with tar from natural seeps. One needed to have dedicated tennis shoes or keep a solvent to clean up after a beach walk or run, even before the spill. As I recall at the time of the spill Union was not allowed to pump the oil, which was then somewhere around $2 per barrel. Ultimately they were allowed by the government to produce and deplete the oil at a much higher price. Had this not been a government mandate, the officers might have been arrested. The late L.F. Buz Ivanhoe expressed doubts about how much oil was still available off of the Santa Barbara coast. . He also said that it was of such poor quality that some of the oil companies had shown relatively little interest in further drilling. Perhaps some oily posters can confirm, refute or expand on that thought..

It will be interesting to see what happens to California July 1. 2009. Sacramento is currently busy trying to eliminating funding for medical clinics, police widows, Alzheimer victums etc.

The impassioned responses to Gail the Actuary's article is truely astonishing. However, consider that earlier this month, a group of indigenous people in Northern Peru stood up to a modern army over access to their land for oil exploration. Families with wooden spears against trained men with fully automatic assault rifles, not exactly a fair fight. Then, image the passion it would take to make such a stand. That is what you're dealing with here Gail. I know personally that much of their motivation is born from the experience of the Ecuadorian indigenous.

I have read this site for many years, and have found that the contributors are not only extemely knowledgable on energy and oil related issues, but also display a genuine concern for the sufferings of humanity. That is why peak oil is a concern to begin with, right? I urge you to look at the obvious. Texaco exploited the region and it's people and now Chevron is dealing with the backlash. Simple as that.

To balance your actions on this matter maybe you would consider donating some money to a non-profit which aids the indiginous people of Southern Ecuador. That would make for a fittingly ironic end to a corporate sponsored trip! And we sure could use the help.

The hypothesis which so entrances numerous commenters above--that Gail has been induced into posting a biased article--I find ridiculous. We are being asked to believe that Gail is such an idiot that she fails to notice that any biased or incompetent posts will get slammed by the TOD commentariat. Or that she is so
naive that she can be manipulated without even guessing at it.

Too many commenters above seem to be jumping to such seriously wacky conclusions even before Gail has had chance to present the whole report.

In my view a far more credible interpretation is that Gail has been acting in good faith. But has indeed misjudged the misjudgment capability of the readership. I've made similar misjudgements myself in the past so I don't wish to deride here.

As for accepting a visit there, this enables one to speak from direct knowledge rather than falsifiable testimonies and assumptions. And saves the opposing campaign group from having to expend their more limited funds.

As for lack of relevance to peak oil-- it is clear that it is a topic of considerable interest to some of the readership here as proven by the volume and character of comments. So so what.

It would be much better if instead of obsessing with whether or not this or that conspiracy theory is correct about the author, instead the commenters were to concentrate on showing what they consider to be bias or other errors in the content.

Furthermore I oppose the objection to Gail's posting of the solar satellite thing. Pitt (if not others) showed how defective that post was, but so what, everyone is free to not comment or just ignore it entirely. Some of the greatest discoveries were derided as ridiculous nonsense in their day, not least Wegener's theory of continental drift derided for 50 years (big hint, a key concept of modern geology!). And so we should be cautious in refusing a hearing to such projects. As it happens I think the solar satellite is a non-starter but so what.

As for objecting to Gail's anti-wind article, again so what? Are the TOD editors to be rightly persecuted if they are not sufficiently anti-oil, pro-alternatives? I think not.

Thanks for your comments.

We try to present a broad range of ideas. If we limit ourselves to a few ideas, and the chosen ones don't really work very well, would could be in really bad shape. Also, our infrastructure dictates that we will still need some oil and gas. I think we need to keep as many options as possible open.

the chosen ones don't really work very well

So do nothing. BAU till crash seems to be Gail's chosen course.

Gail has no clear concept of what to do#.

Sorry, but family medical issues have kept me from this debate.


# The few positions she has taken (drill ANWAR before we have to replace the pipeline, instead of waiting till we REALLY need the oil, don't push non-oil transportation alternatives, don't push renewable energy, don't shrink Suburbia, buy hand tools that do not require electricity, etc.) seem to support BAU until crash (and greater oil company profits as a side result).

First, anyone thinking that 60 Minutes isn't anything other than infotainment designed to get ratings is fooling themselves. They're not interested in producing quality journalism.

And, although I agree that Ecuador is a mess and should be cleaned up, those that are pointing the finger at Chevron may not understand that there are other, more responsible parties.

Here is a link to a roundup of stories/blogs that present another side.

You may also want to find out a little more about who the Amazon Defense Coalition’s hired PR flack.

What we should know about Mr. Thorne is that his wife is a paid consultant for Chevron -- a fact he neglects to mention. I wrote a press release that questioned Chevron's efforts to promote its so-called "green" efforts when, at the same time, it refused to cleanup Texaco's oil contamination in Ecuador. I noted in the press release that Mr. Thorne's wife presented information about Chevron's "green" efforts to Members of Congress and congressional staff.