Please welcome the latest entry to the Chutzpah Hall of Fame: the mighty Chevron Corporation.
On Oct. 28, during a gala ceremony at its headquarters in San Ramon, Calif., the company, which until May was known as ChevronTexaco, will honor the latest recipients of the annual Chevron Conservation Awards. The awards are meant to recognize the achievements of men and women who have "helped to protect wildlife, restore wilderness, create natural preserves and parks, and institute educational programs to heighten environmental awareness."
Chevron is accused of dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste, over a period of 20 years, into the soil and water of a previously pristine section of the Amazon rain forest.
Meanwhile, Chevron's lawyers are in Ecuador defending the company against charges that it contributed to one of the worst environmental disasters on the planet. The company is accused of dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste, over a period of 20 years, into the soil and water of a previously pristine section of the Amazon rain forest.
According to a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of some 30,000 impoverished residents of the rain forest, this massive, long-term pollution has ruined portions of the jungle, contaminated drinking water, sickened livestock, driven off wildlife and threatened the very survival of the indigenous tribes, which have been plagued with serious illnesses, including a variety of cancers.
Chevron, which likes to promote itself as a champion of the environment, contends that no such catastrophe occurred. A spokesman told me yesterday that the billions of gallons of waste that was dumped "wasn't necessarily toxic."
"We've done inspections," the spokesman said. "We've done a deep scientific analysis, and that analysis has shown no harmful impacts from the operations. There just aren't any."
You would have a very difficult time selling that story to the people in the rain forest who have been drinking and bathing in water fouled with the byproducts of oil-drilling processes. Parents have watched their children play and their livestock feed in areas contaminated with oily substances. Pits that perpetually ooze gunk and oil are ubiquitous.