Chevron's Toxic Legacy in Ecuador




Chevron is responsible for one of the largest environmental disasters in history — the deliberate dumping of a massive amount of oil pollution in the Ecuadorean Amazon — for which it was found guilty in February 2011 and ordered to pay $18 billion to clean up. The judgment was upheld by an appeals court in January 2012. Rather than take responsibility for the impacts of its business operations, however, Chevron is waging unprecedented public relations and lobbying campaigns to avoid having to clean up Ecuador — as well as several other environmental and public health catastrophes it has created around the world.

Chevron's Toxic Legacy In The Ecuadorean Amazon

A toxic waste pit left by Texaco (now Chevron) near Dureno, Ecuador in 1993. - Photo by Lou Dematteis
A toxic waste pit left by Texaco, now Chevron, near Dureno, Ecuador in 1993. Photo by Lou Dematteis.

Between 1964 and 1990, Texaco (which Chevron acquired in 2001) drilled for oil in a remote northern region of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest called the Oriente. Using obsolete technology and substandard environmental controls, the company deliberately dumped 18.5 billion gallons of highly toxic waste sludge into the streams and rivers on which local people depend for drinking, bathing, and fishing. The company dug over 900 open-air, unlined waste pits that continue to seep toxins into the ground to this day. The sludge contained some of the most dangerous chemicals known to man — including benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) — in lethal concentrations. Rupturing oil pipelines and gas flaring was also a regular occurrence.

What’s worse, the dumping was done intentionally to cut corners and save an estimated $3 per barrel.

Cofan indigenous leader Emergildo Criollo. - Photo by Lou Dematteis
Cofan indigenous leader Emergildo Criollo. Photos by Lou Dematteis.

In the Oriente, the land itself has become toxic and the entire water system contaminated. Almost any kind of food from this region — whether it’s farmed, domesticated, caught in the wild or in water — is unsafe to eat. While Chevron has refused to accept responsibility and clean up the pollution, more than 1,400 people have died of attributed cancers. Children under 14 have been most vulnerable, suffering high rates of birth defects and leukemia. Parents cannot adequately feed their families. Local economies and communities have collapsed. And for those who remain, their way of life, their culture and traditions, have been radically altered. For its part, Chevron has actually denied that 18.5 billion gallons of toxic waste can harm people.

Courageously, the rainforest people of the Ecuadorean Amazon are standing up to Chevron. After a long and often bitter 18-year struggle, the Indigenous and rural Ecuadoreans suing Chevron to force the company to clean up its oil contamination in the Amazon have prevailed. In February 14, 2011, a court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador issued a historic ruling finding Chevron guilty and ordering the company to pay $18.2 billion to clean up its mess in Ecuador. The judgment is currently being appealed.

If successful, this case will establish a monumental precedent for corporate accountability and environmental justice across the globe. If successful, Chevron will be forced to finally care. Learn more about the contamination in Ecuador and the historic trial at ChevronToxico.com

Chevron’s dangerous, irresponsible practices and policies are not confined to Ecuador — or to the past

Chevron has a long history of ravaging natural environments, violating human rights, ignoring the longstanding decisions of Indigenous communities, destroying traditional livelihoods, and converting its dollars into unjust political influence in the United States and around the world.

Chevron’s egregious corporate behavior —in locations as diverse as California, Burma, Colombia, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the Philippines and the U.S. Gulf Coast—has spanned decades and carries on today.Today, Chevron’s century-old oil refinery in Richmond, California, is the state’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. For decades, the pollution from Chevron's Richmond refinery has caused high rates of asthma, cancer, and heart disease in the region. But instead of reducing pollution, Chevron has been trying to “update” the refinery to process heavier oil grades. In other words, the company is looking to double down on its polluting ways by seeking to spew greater amounts of global warming and disease-causing gases into our atmosphere.

Around the world, over and over again, Chevron’s outdated practices and policies have consistently violated human rights, damaged health, and worsened global warming.

In Kazakhstan, Chevron has contaminated land and water resources and impaired the health of local residents. In Canada’s Alberta region, Chevron is invested in tar sands — one of the most environmentally damaging projects on the planet. In the Niger Delta, Chevron is complicit in human rights violations committed by security forces against local people. In the Philippines, regular oil leaks and spills have sickened Manila residents. Chevron’s operations in Burma are providing a financial lifeline to a Burmese military regime known for its appalling human rights record. In Western Australia, Chevron’s liquefied natural gas facility threatens the health of local communities and fragile humpback whale and turtle populations.

From Richmond, California to Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, communities are working to change Chevron. But to really move one of the world’s largest and most dangerous corporations, we need an even bigger, more powerful, and more global movement.

Will you join us?



View Chevron's Toxic Legacy in the Ecuadorean Rainforest on Flickr