Eye on the Amazon: The Official Blog of Amazon Watch
November 13, 2012 | Maíra Irigaray
Belo Monte: Justice Now!
Join the worldwide chorus calling for justice in Brazil by urging a definitive ruling on lawsuits against the Belo Monte Dam. Sign the petition today.
On the brink of the VIII Forum on Indigenous people and the electric sector, alarming conflicts have swept Brazil. The forum has been called "a farce meant to greenwash the energy sector's impacts on indigenous peoples" and the reality outside conference doors proves Brazilians are facing a unique moment. In three different regions, indigenous peoples from Mato Grosso, Tapajós and the Xingu have found themselves face-to-face with what "development" really means to their culture and lands.
November 9, 2012 | Kevin Koenig
If you're a Chevron shareholder, you must be wondering at this point WTF is going on over at corporate headquarters. The internet exploded Wednesday with news that an Argentinian judge ordered seizure of Chevron's in-country assets in what could be the first of many rulings enforcing a $19 billion judgment from an Ecuadorian court on behalf of indigenous and farmer communities who have suffered decades-long contamination, health problems, and rights abuses stemming from the company's Amazon drilling operations. Chevron shares closed down $1.64 on Thursday and may keep nose-diving over the long term.
Judge Adrian Elcuj Miranda froze 100% of Chevron's capital in Argentina, 100% of dividends, all of its share in pipeline operator Oleoductos del Valle SA, 40% of Chevron sales to Argentine refineries, and 40% of Chevron bank accounts in Argentina. The move was a major victory for the 30,000 plaintiffs who have been forced to scour the planet seeking Chevron assets because the oil giant has refused to pay the $19 billion damage award ordered by Ecuadorian courts after it was found guilty for spilling over 18 million gallons of crude and dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste water into the fragile rainforest ecosystem, poisoning local indigenous and farmer communities. The verdict was handed down by a court of Chevron's own choosing and based on much of the company's own evidence after almost two decades of litigation which includes some 64,000 soil and water samples.
For any Chevron shareholder, the news must have been shocking, because senior management has long downplayed – or outright failed to disclose – the potential financial impact of the verdict. Since 2008 the company has recycled the same language in its 10-K, misleading shareholders on the legal and factual merits of the case, selectively disclosing only favorable court rulings, and refusing to disclose material impact of enforcement actions against its assets in multiple countries. In essence, downplaying and dismissing any impact the case could have financially on the company.
However, in a sworn affidavit presented to the New York's Second Circuit Court, Chevron Deputy Comptroller Rex Mitchell stated that efforts by plaintiffs to recognize and enforce the judgment would cause "significant, irreparable damage to Chevron...irreparable injury to Chevron's business reputation and business relationships," and that "seizure of Chevron assets, such as oil tankers, wells, or pipelines, in any one of these countries, would disrupt Chevron's supply chain and operations; and seizures in multiple jurisdictions would be more disruptive."
November 2, 2012 | Kevin Koenig
It's been another rough week for Chevron, the second largest U.S. oil company. The San Ramon oil giant reported this morning that its third quarter earnings had dropped by a third. But that's not the worst of it.
Chevron got a rude awaking Wednesday morning with news that Ecuadorian indigenous and farmer communities will seek to freeze some $2 billion of the company's assets in Argentina. This latest legal action is part of the communities' efforts to force Chevron to pay a $19 billion damages award handed down from Ecuadorian courts that found Chevron guilty of massive environmental contamination and rights abuses in the country's Amazon rainforest.
Ever since the 2011 decision – from a court of Chevron's choosing and based on much of the company's own evidence – Chevron has been on the lam, running from the law, and forcing some 30,000 Amazonians to go global to get the long fought justice they deserve. Between 1967 and 1991, the company deliberately dumped more than 4.3 billion gallons of toxic waste water, 18 million gallons of crude, and left behind some 1,000 super fund style sludge pits full of carcinogens. The result? Indigenous communities and their rainforest lands devastated, a public health crisis with no clean drinking water, and an epidemic of cancer and other ailments that have plagued the region for the last three decades. The communities are seeking a full environmental clean up, potable water, and funds for health services.
October 29, 2012 | Darrin Mortenson
Even as indigenous people struggle to cope with current levels of contamination and illness caused by years of oil production in the Amazon, the governments of Peru and Ecuador are preparing to sell off even more Amazonian territory to the oil industry in coming months.
Starting in November, Peru's state-run leasing agency Petroperu plans to start auctioning licenses to 36 new oil blocks for exploration, 19 of them in the northern region of Loreto. Just across the border, Ecuador is set to lease at least 13 blocks on or near waterways that eventually flow south into Peru and join the Amazon River.
Many of the blocks overlap or abut protected areas and indigenous territories and threaten the forests and rivers that indigenous people and other river people depend on for their lives.
October 18, 2012 | Maíra Irigaray
After 35 days of protests and 11 days of occupation, the indigenous peoples and traditional groups occupying the Belo Monte construction site have left, with their heads held high. Last night an agreement was signed between the protesters and Norte Energia, in the presence of governmental agencies. And, although the promises were only promises, people felt confident. Most of them were heard for the very first time; and that fact alone was already a sign of victory.