Over three decades of oil drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Chevron dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into the rainforest, leaving local people suffering a wave of cancers, miscarriages and birth defects. Now, with the support of an international campaign for justice, the communities affected by Chevron’s negligence are holding one of the world’s largest oil companies to account.
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A Rainforest Chernobyl
In 1964, Texaco (now Chevron), discovered oil in the remote northern region of the Ecuadorian Amazon, known as the “Oriente.” The indigenous inhabitants of this pristine rainforest, including the Cofán, Siona, Secoya, Kichwa and Huaorani, lived traditional lifestyles largely untouched by modern civilization. The forests and rivers provided the physical and cultural subsistence base for their daily survival. They had little idea what to expect or how to prepare when oil workers moved into their backyard and founded the town of Lago Agrio, named for Texaco’s birthplace of Sour Lake, Texas. The Ecuadorian government had similarly little idea what to expect; no one had ever successfully drilled for oil in the Amazon rainforest before. The government entrusted Texaco, a well-known U.S. company with more than a half-century’s worth of experience, with employing modern oil practices and technology in the country’s emerging oil patch. However, despite existing environmental laws, Texaco made deliberate, cost-cutting operational decisions that, for 28 years, resulted in an environmental catastrophe that experts have dubbed the “Rainforest Chernobyl.”
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