Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, First Nations.
Tags: abby zimet, Canada, canada indigenous, environment, First Nations, freda huson, indigenous, keystone, oil, pipeline, roger hollander, tar sands, unis'ot'en
Roger’s note: This is direct action. These are people taking their destiny into their own hands, perhaps the government and oil monopolies have left them no alternative. I can foresee a violent and tragic confrontation. I am sure they are expecting in and are ready for it, perhaps ready to die protecting their land and people. A lesson to all of us.
Saturday, November 08, 2014
With a newly elected Congress gearing up to pass Keystone, the inspiring story of the Unist’ot’en Camp, an indigenous resistance community established in northwest Canada to protect sovereign Wet’suwet’en territory and blockade up to 10 additional proposed pipelines aimed at expanding Alberta Tar Sands operations. The Uni’stot’en Clan, which has families living in cabins and traditional structures in the direct pathway of the Northern Gateway and Pacific Trails fracking lines, argues that “since time immemorial” they have governed Wet’suwet’en lands, which thus remain unceded and not subject to Canadian law “or other impositions of colonial occupation” – an argument that has been sustained in court cases, and bolstered by the camp’s recent peaceable ejection of a drilling crew..
Camp leaders note that delays caused by their and other grassroots blockades are said to be costing Kinder Morgan and other companies up to $88 million a month, one reason the companies have filed multi-million suits against camp leaders that are still pending. But with Wet’suwet’en law requiring consent from the traditional indigenous governments in territories where indigenous people probably outnumber “settler people,” opponents appear to have the law on their side. “Our Chiefs have said no to these projects, and no means no,” says Freda Huson, Unist’ot’en Clan member and camp spokesperson. “You can’t continue to bulldoze over our people. Our lands. Our final say.”
Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Energy, Environment, First Nations, Latin America.
Tags: Ecuador, ecuadorian amazon, environment, indigenous, oil exploitation, oil exploration, roger hollander, yasuni
YASunidos is an Ecuadorian youth movement which collected 750 000 signatures to prevent oil drilling in Yasuní national park in Ecuador.
They have been nominated for “The Human Rights Tulip” award, a prize worth €100 000.
This money could be used perfectly to further expand and deepen their campaign to save the Yasuní national park and protect the rights of the indigenous people whose existence is threatened by the oil exploitation.
Yasuní is a worldwide symbol – if we achieve to stop the oil exploitation in the Ecuadorian amazon, we are one step further towards saving the amazon, saving our climate, and creating a post-oil society in Ecuador and beyond.
Please vote and share this!
Posted by rogerhollander in British Columbia, Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations.
Tags: british columbia, canada oil, carbon emissions, david suzuki, enbridge, environment, First Nations, greenpeace, lauren mccauley, northern gateway, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, tar sands, tar sands pipeline
Demonstrators took to the streets of Vancouver Tuesday evening after the Canadian government gave the greenlight to the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline. (Photo: Brent Patterson/ Twitter)
“It’s official. The war is on,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip told a crowd of hundreds who had flooded the streets of Vancouver late Tuesday following the announcement that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had approved the Enbridge Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline.
Phillip, who is president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, told reporters that people are prepared to go to jail over this fight, “because that’s what it’s going to take.”
Phillip’s statement exemplified the widespread condemnation and vows of resistance that swiftly followed news that the Canadian government had greenlighted the controversial project.
The 1,177 kilometer pipeline will carry 200 million barrels of tar sands crude each year from Alberta to a terminal in Kitimat, British Columbia, where it will be loaded onto oil tankers.
Blocking a major intersection, the Vancouver protesters wielded signs and chanted: ‘No pipelines!’, ‘No tankers!’ and ‘Defend our coast!’
“The only thing we can do now is raise our voices together and have a peaceful protest, to make a strong statement that this is not okay,” Mona Woodward, executive director of the Aboriginal Front door society, told a reporter from the Vancouver Observer.
A diverse crowd gathered in front of the CBC News headquarters in the B.C. city to voice their anger at a government that they say blatantly chose to neglect the people and the environment over big business.
“It’s more than disrespectful […] it’s the end of safe drinking water, it’s also the end of Mother Earth,” Woodward continued.
Opponents of the pipeline also flooded social media with vows of resistance and pictures of Tuesday’s demonstration.
Canadian Indigenous groups, which have long-fought the pipeline, are vowing to defend their land and their sovereignty ‘without surrender.’
In an unprecedented show of unity, 31 First Nations and tribal councils have signed a letter announcing their intention to “vigorously pursue all lawful means to stop the Enbridge project.”
“We have governed our lands, in accordance to our Indigenous laws, since time immemorial,” read the statement, which was distributed by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. “Our inherent Title and Rights and our legal authority over our respective territories have never been surrendered.”
“This project, and the federal process to approve it, violated our rights and our laws. We are uniting to defend our lands and waters of our respective territories,” the statement continued. “We will defend our territories whatever the costs may be.”
“We will defend our territories whatever the costs may be.”
—alliance of 31 First Nations
Even with the project tied up in courts, organizers are preparing more immediate direct actions and demonstrations on the ground.
On Wednesday, the First Nations group Kootenays for a Pipeline-Free B.C. is holding a rally under the banner “Occupy the Pipeline Everywhere!” at the Chahko Mika Mall in Ottawa.
Women with the Yinka Dene Alliance, a coalition of six First Nations who live directly along the pipeline route, are vowing to “do everything we can to protect our water,” as alliance coordinator Geraldine Thomas Flurer told The Tyee.
Gitga’at First Nation women are planning to a suspend multicolored crocheted “chain of hope” across the more than 3.5 kilometer-wide Douglas Channel this Friday, in what they are describing as a symbolic blockade against oil tankers.
Echoing the sentiment of many who are specifically directing their anger over the pipeline at Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Chief Phillip said during the Vancouver rally: “Harper has declared war on British Columbians and First Nations, he will absolutely not be welcome into this province in the future.”
Considering the mounting opposition, many believe this is a project destined for failure. As noted Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki wrote following news of the pipeline’s approval, “This conversation is far from over.”
Suzuki added: “In approving it, the government is aggressively pushing an unwanted project on an unwilling public. I don’t believe it will be built.”
Greenpeace Canada campaigners protested Prime Minister Harper’s energy policies with a mock oil spill in 2012. (Credit: flickr / Jeremy Christian / Greenpeace)
Like more than two-thirds of British Columbians and 130 First Nations, I’m outraged that the federal government wants to proceed with the Enbridge Northern Gateway twinned pipeline. In approving it, the government is aggressively pushing an unwanted project on an unwilling public. I don’t believe it will be built.
British Columbia and Canada have too much to lose: rich coastal ecosystems known as the Galapagos of the North, the vast Great Bear Rainforest, vibrant First Nations’ communities and some of the world’s last healthy salmon streams, among other treasures. B.C.’s communities are built on the understanding that healthy ecosystems lead to prosperity.
All this is at risk from a pipeline that will carry heavy oil across nearly 800 rivers and streams and onto supertankers travelling B.C.’s coastal waters. It’s hard to imagine a riskier project.
Yet Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided to approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway heavy oil pipeline despite a mounting outcry from Canadians.
This is not the time to increase our reliance on dirty fossil fuels. Building the Northern Gateway pipeline is out of step with what an overwhelming body of scientific evidence is telling us: We need to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions over the next several decades if we hope to guard against the worst impacts of climate change.
We can do better. The oil sands represent the fastest-growing source of carbon emissions in the country. Instead of supporting their unfettered expansion, we should be investing in a renewable-energy future that eliminates our dependence on fossil fuels. Building the Northern Gateway pipeline only ensures that emissions from the oil sands will continue to grow and Canada will again fail to be part of the solution to global warming.
I’m not giving up on a clean energy future for my children and grandchildren.
British Columbians say they don’t want this pipeline. Increased tanker traffic and the possibility of heavy oil spills threaten the same marine areas that the province, First Nations and local communities are working to protect through marine plans.
This conversation is far from over. Next steps will likely include court challenges and actions by Canadians and First Nations, whose concerns have so far been ignored. I urge you to remain hopeful and join me to make your voice heard for a responsible energy future.
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Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, Russia.
Tags: arctic 30, civil disobedience, climate change, daryl hannah, envrionment, fossil fuel, global warming, greenpeace, keystone xl, phil radford, putin, roger hollander
All around the globe, record numbers of people from all walks of life are being thrown into jails because they are standing up to protect the most basic of human needs — uncontaminated water, unpolluted lands, and a liveable climate free from the ramifications of extreme fossil fuel extraction. If the greed-driven fossil fuel extraction corporations — and the governments that do their bidding to assure sustained record profits — don’t stop endangering our critical and already-compromised life support systems, there is little doubt that the numbers of individuals standing up will grow exponentially. People are increasingly recognizing the critical necessity to safeguard our communities and our ecosystems, and growing numbers around the world are taking that bold step to engage in the time-honored tradition of peaceful civil disobedience as a means of alerting others to the dangers that threaten us all. This map from The Public Society shows some of the major protests against fossil fuel extraction in the past year alone, and the reach is staggering.
From Washington D.C. to Mauritania to the Yukon, people are rising up.
Those of us who choose civil disobedience as a tactic, often of last resort, do so not because they are looking to get away with a crime, but because we are seeking to shine a light on laws that allow for injustice to prevail. No one wants to go to jail. But the history of righting terrible wrongs is first a history of individuals putting their bodies on the line, risking arrest, facing uncertain circumstances and sometimes going to jail (or worse), long before the nation or the world awakens to the realities of what amounts to legalized decimation, injustice, and oppression.
There were times in our history here in the United States of America where the law of the land allowed slavery, prohibited women the right to vote, left children unprotected by labor laws, and didn’t guarantee the civil rights of all citizens. In the USA’s many hard-fought movements of great social progress — the abolitionist movement, women’s suffrage, labor and civil rights movements, as well as the free speech, peace, and environmental justice movements — there have always been those who were out in front, laying their bodies on the line and leading the way — well before the lawmakers followed with new legislation designed to make this a “more perfect union.”
The climate movement is well underway, and thousands of peaceful protesters and interventionists have already put their bodies and freedom on the line. As the world grapples with how to recognize the first of its climate refugees, and as it becomes desperately clear that carbon pollution must be urgently addressed, the quest for more difficult to access and dirtier oil and gas has never been more furious. In the states, lawmakers in the pocket of extraction industry make the pillaging easier and the public health concerns more profound by allowing exemptions from the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act. So, in the US alone, over 76,000 have pledged to engage in dignified acts of peaceful civil disobedience if the debacle that is the KeystoneXL pipeline is allowed to proceed through our country’s heartland.
The third largest threat to our planetary climate — third only to mining nearly all of China and Australia’s coal — would be drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic, where oil companies plan to take advantage of melting sea ice in this most sensitive region on earth. If their plan were to succeed, despite the technical obstacles and enormous environmental risks, the drilling would add 520 million tons of carbon pollution to the atmosphere per year, as much as all of Canada’s annual global warming pollution.
That’s why Greenpeace activists and independent journalists determined to bring this urgent threat to humanity to light journeyed to the Russian Arctic to protest the first ever offshore Arctic oil drilling project. On September 19th, consistent with the tradition of peaceful direct action, Greenpeace activists scaled a Gazprom oil platform to hang a banner off of the side. They hoped to bring awareness of the frightening risks of runaway climate change and the devastating effect of oil spills that Arctic drilling could bring to the world.
The Russian Federal Security Services responded with force, firing 11 warning shots into the water just inches away from the Greenpeace small inflatable boats. Two activists were taken by the knife wielding agents, while the other 28 activists and journalists remained on the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise.
The next day, in international waters, 15 masked Russian troops rappelled on to the Arctic Sunrise from a helicopter, held all 28 civilians onboard at gunpoint, and seized the ship.
The Arctic 30 have been in Russian custody since.
While even President Putin said the activists and journalists were “obviously not pirates;” the Russian authorities detained and charged all 30 with piracy – a crime that carries a 15 year jail sentence in Russia. A few weeks ago, they added “hooliganism,” charges which carry even more disproportionate penalties of up to 7 years in jail. The illegal arrests on international waters and the outrageous charges have been condemned by governments and many human rights groups, including Amnesty International, while people in 220 cities from Jakarta to Hong Kong to California marched, calling for the release of the Arctic 30.
The disproportionate Russian response is like unleashing attack dogs on a sit-in.
History has shown us that peaceful activism is vital when all else fails to respond appropriately to the most pressing issues of our time. The great practitioners of non-violent direct action as a means of achieving social change knew this and practiced it only with love in their hearts. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr both said in so many words, “if a law is unjust, it is your responsibility to break it.” MLK once said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That one profound statement of moral genius succinctly exemplifies why the world must not be silent until the Arctic 30 are once again free.
Please stand in solidarity with those who were willing and compelled to go to the front lines on behalf of all future generations. The risks that these activists have taken, and the cost to them personally and to their loved ones, need you to relentlessly demand that Russia free the Arctic 30 — and of course that the world move swiftly, urgently and in earnest to a planet powered by clean energy.
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Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Canada petroleum, Energy, Environment.
Tags: andrea germanos, Canada, canada energy, canada environment, canada government, canada oil, climate change, david suzuki, Elsipogtog, environment, environmental protection, fracking, keystone, Noam Chomsky, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, tar sands
Canada is on a race “to destroy the environment as fast as possible,” said noted linguist and intellectual Noam Chomsky in an interview with the Guardian published Friday.
Noam Chomsky speaking in Trieste, Italy. (Photo: SISSA/cc/flickr)
Chomsky took aim at the conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which has pushed for increased exploitation of the tar sands, muzzled federal scientists, championed the Keystone XL pipeline and gutted environmental protections.
Harper’s pro-oil, anti-science policies have been the target vocal, widespread opposition, including recent sweeping mobilizations by Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation fighting fracking exploration in New Brunswick.
“It means taking every drop of hydrocarbon out of the ground, whether it’s shale gas in New Brunswick or tar sands in Alberta and trying to destroy the environment as fast as possible, with barely a question raised about what the world will look like as a result,” Chomsky told the British paper, referring to Harper’s energy policies.
Yet there is resistance, he said, and “it is pretty ironic that the so-called ‘least advanced’ people are the ones taking the lead in trying to protect all of us, while the richest and most powerful among us are the ones who are trying to drive the society to destruction.”
His comments echo those he wrote this spring in a piece for TomDispatch entitled “Humanity Imperiled: The Path to Disaster.” He wrote: “[A]t one extreme you have indigenous, tribal societies trying to stem the race to disaster. At the other extreme, the richest, most powerful societies in world history, like the United States and Canada, are racing full-speed ahead to destroy the environment as quickly as possible.”
To organize around climate change, Chomsky told the Guardian that progressives should not frame it as a “prophecy of doom,” but rather “a call to action” that can be “energizing.”
As the country continues what David Suzuki called a “systematic attack on science and democracy” and “we are facing an irreversible climate catastrophe like the tar sands,” Canada’s race to disaster shows no signs of abating.
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Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Canada petroleum, Energy, Environment.
Tags: alberta, alberta government, Canada, canada oil, cancer, environment, fossil fuel, keystone pipeline, neela banerjee, oil sands, roger hollander, shell scotford, suncor, tar sands
U.S. researchers say they found a high incidence of blood cancers among men in Alberta’s ‘Industrial Heartland.’
An aerial view of Canada’s Suncor oil sands extraction facility near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta. Air samples taken in the region detected pollutants, including carcinogens, researchers say. (Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images / October 23, 2009)
WASHINGTON — A new study has detected air pollutants, including carcinogens, in areas downwind of Canada’s main fossil fuel hub in Alberta at levels rivaling those of major metropolises such as Beijing and Mexico City.
The study by researchers from UC Irvine and the University of Michigan also found a high incidence of blood cancers such as leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma among men in the area, compared with the rest of Alberta and Canada.
“When you get cancers that can be caused by the carcinogens we are seeing, that is reason for concern,” said Isobel J. Simpson, a lead author of the study and a researcher at UC Irvine’s chemistry department.
The Alberta government said the study provides an inaccurate picture of pollution in the so-called Industrial Heartland, a three-county area where oil, chemicals and oil sands crude are processed.
“Based on the results of our monitoring, we see no evidence to suggest that people in the Industrial Heartland region are exposed to levels of the chemicals indicated in the paper,” said Nikki Booth, spokeswoman for Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, the provincial regulator.
The issue has drawn attention because most of the oil produced in Canada is shipped to the United States.
Three previous studies since 2009 have detected carcinogens in Alberta’s rivers and lakes, near where oil sands are mined. The latest study focuses on a site where oil sands are processed, along with other fossil fuels.
The Industrial Heartland, northeast of the provincial capital, Edmonton, is surrounded largely by farmland. The Shell Scotford complex includes a refinery and a facility that processes 225,000 barrels a day of bitumen, a tarry substance that is extracted from northeastern Alberta’s oil sands, diluted with chemicals and piped to the United States.
The study released this week is based on air samples taken over two days in 2010 around 10 facilities. Researchers measured volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, organic chemical mixtures created by certain industrial processes and consumption of fossil fuels, among other things.
VOCs contribute to climate change and formation of smog. They also contain cancer-causing substances such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene.
Tests showed that airborne concentrations of 1,3-butadiene were 322 times greater downwind of the industrial area than upwind. Similarly, downwind concentrations of benzene were 51 times greater.
The researchers said the compounds were consistent with emissions from the nearby facilities.
Simpson said funding allowed for only two days of sampling and the population that showed higher cancer rates was small. The researchers recommended better monitoring of air pollution and health, and suggested that facilities reduce emissions of known carcinogens.
“We don’t want this to be study after study after study with no action,” Simpson said. “There’s enough here to recommend reducing carcinogens in this area.”
Posted by rogerhollander in California, Energy, Environment.
Tags: alternative energy, California, ecological sustainability, Edison International, environment, jon queally, PG&E, renewable energy, roger hollander, rooftop solar, Sempra Energy, solar energy, solar panels, solar power, solar systems
In California and elsewhere, utilities see a rooftop solar revolution as fundemental threat. (Photo: shutterstock)
In the nation’s largest state, California, the major utility companies are trying to limit growth.
Of rooftop solar panels, that is.
According to reporting by Bloomberg, the state’s three largest utilities—Edison International, PG&E Corp. and Sempra Energy—are “putting up hurdles” to homeowners who have installed sun-powered energy systems, especially those with “battery backups wired to solar panels,” in order to slow the spread of what has become a threat to their dominant business model.
“The utilities clearly see rooftop solar as the next threat,” Ben Peters, a government affairs analyst at solar company Mainstream Energy Corp., told Bloomberg. “They’re trying to limit the growth.”
According to Peters, as the business news outlet reports, the dispute between those with solar arrays and the utility giants “threatens the state’s $2 billion rooftop solar industry and indicates the depth of utilities’ concerns about consumers producing their own power. People with rooftop panels are already buying less electricity, and adding batteries takes them closer to the day they won’t need to buy from the local grid at all.”
Citing but one example, Bloomberg reports:
Matthew Sperling, a Santa Barbara, California, resident, installed eight panels and eight batteries at his home in April.
“We wanted to have an alternative in case of a blackout to keep the refrigerator running,” he said in an interview. Southern California Edison rejected his application to link the system to the grid even though city inspectors said “it was one of the nicest they’d ever seen,” he said.
“We’ve installed a $30,000 system and we can’t use it,” Sperling said.
The utilities argue that customers with solar energy-storing batteries might be rigging the system by fraudulently storing conventional energy sent in from the utility grid, storing it in the batteries, and then sending it back to the grid for credit. The solar companies say there is no proof that this is happening.
What environmentalists and solar energy advocates see is the utility companies putting barriers up to a decentralized system they will not no longer be able to control or profit from.
As Danny Kennedy, author of the book “Rooftop Revolution” and co-founder of solar company Sungevity in California, said in an interview with Alternet earlier this year:
Solar power represents a change in electricity that has a potentially disruptive impact on power in both the literal sense (meaning how we get electricity) and in the figurative sense of how we distribute wealth and power in our society. Fossil fuels have led to the concentration of power whereas solar’s potential is really to give power over to the hands of people. This shift has huge community benefits while releasing our dependency on the centralized, monopolized capital of the fossil fuel industry. So it’s revolutionary in the technological and political sense.
The tensions between decentralized forms of energy like rootop solar or small-scale wind and traditional large-scale utilities is nothing new, but as the crisis of climate change has spurred a global grassroots movement push for a complete withdrawal from the fossil fuel and nuclear paradigm that forms the basis of the current electricity grid, these tensions are growing.
But the resistance to these changes is coming strongest from those with a vested interest in the status quo. With most focus on the behavior of the fossil fuel companies themselves, the idea that utility companies will be deeply impacted by this green energy revolution is often overlooked.
Earlier this summer, David Roberts, an energy and environmental blogger at Grist.org, wrote an extensive, multi-part series on the role of utilities in the renewable energy transition, explaining why understanding the politics and economics of the utility industry (despite the grand “tedium” of the task) will be essential for the remainder of the 21st century. Roberts wrote:
There’s very little public discussion of utilities or utility regulations, especially relative to sexier topics like fracking or electric cars. That’s mainly because the subject is excruciatingly boring, a thicket of obscure institutions and processes, opaque jargon, and acronyms out the wazoo. Whether PURPA allows IOUs to customize RFPs for low-carbon QFs is actually quite important, but you, dear reader, don’t know it, because you fell asleep halfway through this sentence. Utilities are shielded by a force field of tedium.
It’s is an unfortunate state of affairs, because this is going to be the century of electricity. Everything that can be electrified will be. (This point calls for its own post, but mark my words: transportation, heat, even lots of industrial work is going to shift to electricity.) So the question of how best to manage electricity is key to both economic competitiveness and ecological sustainability.
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Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Ecuador, Energy, Environment, Human Rights.
Tags: bianca jagger, chevron, cofan, Ecuador, ecuador oil, ecuadorian amazon, environment, environmental devastation, environmental lawsuit, Huaorani, human rights, kichwa, lewis kaplan, oil spill, oil-contaminated water, roger hollander, secoya, siona, texaco, toxic waste
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ecosystemsin the Ecuadorian Amazon have been contaminated with by-products of oil extraction
Tomorrow, October 15, a landmark trial opens in federal court in New York City: Chevron Corp v. Steven Donziger et al., one of the world’s largest oil companies against the attorneys and advocates who represent the 30,000 “Lago Agrio Plaintiffs.” The case is the latest in a long and often tragic saga of the Ecuadorian victims struggle for justice.
I am writing this because I don’t want the real issue to be forgotten. The Ecuadorian communities are fighting for justice for the human rights violations and environmental crimes committed by Texaco between 1971 and 1992 in the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon. Since 1993 these Ecuadorian victims have been seeking relief in the largest environmental lawsuit in Latin America to date.
In 2003 I visited the affected communities in the Ecuadorian provinces of Orellana and Succumbios, and I have long supported them in their quest for justice.
Bianca Jagger by an oil pit, Ecuador, 2003I am not writing as an apologist of the legal team, nor am I condoning their behavior — but I feel the need to speak up on behalf of the Ecuadorian victims who may now never get the justice they deserve. It’s critical that Judge Lewis Kaplan, the media, and the public at large don’t lose sight of the real issue.
The original case against Texaco (now Chevron) has been well documented.
Between 1971 and 1992, Texaco embarked upon reckless oil exploration, pumping 1.5 billion barrels of oil from Ecuador. Texaco carved more than 350 oil wells in a rainforest area roughly three times the size of Manhattan and dumped approximately 16.5 billion gallons of oil-contaminated water into unlined pits — one and a half times the amount spilled by the oil tanker Exxon Valdez. When Texaco left Ecuador in 1992, it left behind 916 unlined open toxic waste pits, some just a few feet from the homes of residents. Leeching of highly toxic wastewater byproducts of oil extraction from these pits contaminated the entire groundwater and ecosystem in one of the world’s most valuable rainforests. As there is no running water in the region families, including thousands of children, have no alternative but to drink, bathe, and cook with poisoned water from streams, rivers, lagoons and swamps that have been contaminated by Texaco.
U.S. states have laws requiring that pits have impermeable liners. Louisiana and Texas, two major oil-producing states, passed such laws in the 1930s. Texaco must have been aware of the dire consequences of leaving unlined pits exposed — they made a calculated decision, based on profit. The company saved an estimated $3 per barrel of oil produced by handling its toxic waste in Ecuador in ways that were unthinkable and illegal in the US. The cost to the human population is immeasurable. Ecosystems have been destroyed, diseases have proliferated, crops have been damaged, farm animals killed.
During my visits to the affected communities in 2003, I was appalled at the evidence of the consequences of direct exposure to these toxic waters. The suffering and environmental devastation I witnessed is not a fabrication, or a fiction. There is a toxic legacy left by Texaco for present and future generations.
In May 1995, three years after Texaco left Ecuador, the Republic of Ecuador and Texaco reached a settlement regarding Texaco’s obligations to clean up a percentage of the well sites roughly corresponding to its percentage ownership in the consortium that made money from the drilling. Ecuador’s state-owned oil company, PetroEcuador, was the 62.5 percent majority owner of that consortium from 1976 to 1992, so Texaco was required to clean up only a minority of the well sites. The settlement would later form part of Chevron’s claims that the case had been settled. It did not, however, extinguish the claims of individual third parties, or affect the rights of the communities affected by Texaco’s actions. Certainly the “clean up” undertaken by Texaco was limited and has made no material difference to the lives of the Ecuadorian communities.
Ecosystems contaminated by Texaco’s activities in Ecuador.
The Texaco disaster culminated in the largest environmental lawsuit in Latin America to date; brought by 30,000 plaintiffs from the Ecuadorean Amazon. They filed a billion dollar class action against Texaco in New York. Texaco moved to dismiss the U.S. lawsuit on forum non conveniens grounds. In 2002 the court granted Texaco’s motion, and the case moved to Ecuador on the condition that the company stop using an expiration of the statute of limitations as a defence and that any judgment be enforceable in the U.S. Among the plaintiffs are five indigenous tribes, the Cofán, Siona, Secoya, Kichwa and Huaorani.
The Ecuadorian Amazon in the wake of Texaco.
Chevron acquired Texaco in 2001. Unlike the Exxon Valdez and the Deepwater Horizon accidents, where Exxon and BP, respectively, took some responsibility for their negligence, Chevron has successfully managed to move the case outside of the U.S. because it provided them with two options: to rig the judicial system in a foreign country, or to dodge its responsibility by not recognizing the validity of the verdict if it was not in their favor.
In February 2011, Judge Nicolas Zambrano issued a final verdict, ordering Chevron to pay $18.5 billion to the Ecuadorian plaintiffs. But as Chevron has no holdings in Ecuador, the plaintiffs have been unable to collect that judgement.
Chevron has paid more than $400 million to an army of lawyers to help the company avoid payment and spent over $100 million in lobbying firms to influence U.S. lawmakers and government officials to affect Ecuador’s trade with the U.S., and to discredit Ecuador, its government and legal system. Chevron has even been lobbying Congress and the U.S. Trade Representative not to renew Ecuador’s Most Favored Nation status, which expired on July 31, 2013.
Even prior to the 2011 Ecuadoran ruling, the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, representing Chevron, was shifting the case physically, from Ecuador to New York, from pollution and human rights to attorney ethics.
Gibson Dunn won U.S. court orders forcing the makers of the feature documentary CRUDE to turn over 600 hours of raw footage on the Ecuadorean case in 2010. This footage apparently shows an attorney for the Ecuadorian communities, recounting how he has put pressure on Ecuadorian judges. Now Chevron has accused the attorney of fraud and racketeering — of attempting to obtain the settlement for his own personal benefit, and brought the civil lawsuit against the trial lawyers and consultants for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs.
Chevron brought three collateral actions against the Ecuador judgment in a New York federal court, all overseen by Judge Lewis Kaplan, who has a puzzling attitude toward the case. The Ecuadorians asked that Judge Kaplan be recused from the case in 2011. In their writ of Mandamus the Ecuadorians expressed their concern at the Judge’s language — referring to them as the “so-called Lago Agrio plaintiffs,” and in one written order, describes them as “a number of indigenous peoples said to reside in the Amazon rainforest.”
On Jan. 26, 2012, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Judge Kaplan previously overstepped his authority when he tried to ban enforcement around the world of the $18.5 billion judgement against Chevron Inc. for environmental damage in Ecuador. But Chevron has retaliated.
Which brings us back to the suit that begins tomorrow, October 15, in a federal district court in New York, once again before Judge Kaplan. In order to avoid a trial by jury Chevron has dropped their claims for damages against the defendants. There is a massive imbalance of power and resources between the two sides. Unlike Chevron, the defense has scant resources — as demonstrated by this motion by Julio Gomez, which asks that the trial schedule reflect the fact that
My firm has no funds to hire an associate, a paralegal or even an assistant to help me through trial given the fact that I have insufficient funds to cover outstanding bills – much less fees going into trial. I have not even been able to contract the two assistants who aided me temporarily with the filing of Defendants’ draft pre-trial submissions in August.
Chevron has also subpoenaed nine years’ worth of email metadata — from September 2003 to 2012 — from 101 email accounts belonging to people with connections to the case. Data requested includes names, time stamps, and detailed location data and login info. Judge Kaplan granted this subpoena in September 2013. According to Mother Jones, this strays dangerously close to violation of First Amendment rights.
The Republic of Ecuador is also seeking leave to intervene to protect the confidentiality of privileged documents which appear to have made their way into Chevron’s suit without explanation.
The case of the Ecuadorians is being lost in a legal labyrinth. Avenues of legal recourse are being closed off, so that the victims have nowhere to turn.
The $18.5 billion judgement in favor of the Ecuadorian plaintiffs should have been historic, a landmark, a precedent for ending impunity for powerful multinational corporations in the developing world and achieving justice. It was a beacon of hope. But after 20 years of long, hard battle, I am beginning to have serious doubts as to whether the victims in Ecuador will ever be compensated.
The Ecuadorian communities were the victims of exploitation by a multinational corporation, Texaco. Their lives, and that of their children, are affected by the toxic waters that leaked into water sources on which they are dependent. This is the real issue, and it is a story that is all too common throughout the developing world. With their legal team on trial, who will pursue justice for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs now?
I appeal to Judge Kaplan, to the media, and to the public at large — please don’t forget what is at stake here. Don’t let this legal imbroglio eclipse the issues which are really at the heart of this case: human rights, justice and environmental protection.
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Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, Japan, Nuclear weapons/power.
Tags: andrea dgermanos, fukushima, fukushima crisis, fukushima radiation, harvey wasserman, nuclear, nuclear contamination, nuclear disaster, nuclear power, nuclear radiation, roger hollander
Roger’s note: I sit here at my desk and wonder when someone is going to do something about an impending disaster of possibly unprecedented magnitude. Maybe a couple of hundred people will read this post, which makes me feel quite impotent. Please pass this on to someone who has access to someone with power in government. Anywhere!!!
IAEA experts examine recovery work on top of Unit 4 of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on 17 April 2013. (Photo: Greg Webb / IAEA)
In the latest in a series of mishaps to hit the crisis-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant, a radiation-stopping “fence” around the reactors has developed a hole, plant operator TEPCO admitted on Thursday.
Fences made of earth and sand sit in the harbor next to the plant and were erected to help contain radioactive material from flowing into the ocean. They “are suspended from floats and anchored with weights on the seafloor,” the Japan Times explains.
One of the fences that sits next to still-intact reactors five and six was found to be breached, sparking further worry about the amount of radioactive contamination heading into the ocean.
TEPCO has struggled to contain the “emergency without end” at Fukushima since the disaster began to unfold in March of 2011. An unsustainable contaminated water-storage system plagued by a series of leaks, soaring radiation levels in groundwater that head into the ocean, and high levels of radiation found in fish have catalyzed widespread resistance to nuclear power and raised international alarm.
As out of control as the situation seems, one expert has warned that it may actually be “much worse” than claimed. Also, long-time anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman warned last week that a plan to “remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air” risked putting the “hand of global nuclear disaster… painfully close to midnight.”