Amazon Leaders Give Occidental Petroleum an Ultimatum

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Darryl Hannah; Q’orianka Kilcher, ERI Legal Director Marco Simons; Oxy plaintiff
5.4.07 — Gathered in Los Angeles to denounce Occidental Petroleum are: Darryl Hannah; Q’orianka Kilcher, ERI Legal Director Marco Simons; Oxy plaintiff Apu Tomás Maynas; indigenous leader Petronila Chumpi; Lily La Torre; Benjamin Bratt; Atossa Soltani; María Ramos; ERI alumnus Andrés Sandi; Benjamin Schonbrun; and other activists.  Photos: Antoine Bonsorte .

At a press conference on May 4, Indigenous communities from the Peruvian Amazon told Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) to clean up its toxic waste from their tropical rainforest or face a major lawsuit. The ultimatum, on the eve of the Westwood-based oil major’s annual general meeting for shareholders, came as a new technical report revealed that 30 years of Oxy’s polluting had left indigenous Achuar children with illegal concentrations of lead and cadmium in their blood, at levels known to cause permanent developmental problems.Occidental Press Conference

EarthRights International (ERI), Amazon Watch, and Peruvian legal non-profit Racimos de Ungurahui have compiled a report providing a legal analysis showing how Oxy’s cost-cutting and deliberate use of substandard technology exposes it to civil demands from the Achuar, both in Peru and the United States. The report is based on information gathered by an ERI-selected team of experts in May 2006 – including a doctor, nurse, lawyers, soil scientist, agronomist, environmental engineer, and chemist.

Marco Simons, Legal Director of EarthRights International, added: “There is no question that Oxy is legally responsible for the contamination of Achuar territory. If Oxy will not agree to fulfill its legal and moral duties, we are fully prepared to assist the Achuar in holding Oxy accountable in court.”

In total, Oxy dumped nine billion barrels of untreated “formation waters”, a by-product of the oil drilling process containing a variety of toxins and carcinogens, directly into the Achuar’s pristine tropical rainforest

EarthRights International (ERI), Amazon Watch, and Peruvian legal non-profit Racimos de Ungurahui have compiled a report providing a legal analysis showing how Oxy’s cost-cutting and deliberate use of substandard technology exposes it to civil demands from the Achuar, both in Peru and the United States. The report is based on information gathered by an ERI-selected team of experts in May 2006 – including a doctor, nurse, lawyers, soil scientist, agronomist, environmental engineer, and chemist.

Marco Simons, Legal Director of EarthRights International, added: “There is no question that Oxy is legally responsible for the contamination of Achuar territory. If Oxy will not agree to fulfill its legal and moral duties, we are fully prepared to assist the Achuar in holding Oxy accountable in court.”Occidental Press Conference

In total, Oxy dumped nine billion barrels of untreated “formation waters”, a by-product of the oil drilling process containing a variety of toxins and carcinogens, directly into the Achuar’s pristine tropical rainforest territories.

While lawyers and plaintiffs look on, Atossa Soltani, founder of Amazon Watch, announced that based on information gathered by a team of experts in May 2006 – including a doctor, nurse, lawyers, soil scientist, agronomist, environmental engineer, and chemist – the report found:

 

  • Oxy dumped an average of 850,000 barrels per day of toxic oil by-products directly into rivers and streams used by the Achuar for drinking, bathing, washing, and fishing.
  • Oxy used earthen pits, prohibited by U.S. standards, to store drilling fluids, crude oil, and crude by-products. These pits, dug directly into the ground, were open, unlined, and routinely overflowed onto the ground and into surface waters, leaching into the surrounding soil and groundwater Atossa Soltani, founder of Amazon Watch
  • Oxy violated several international rights norms – including several in the American Convention on Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights – in its actions on Achuar territory, including the right to life, the right to health, the right to a healthy environment, and indigenous people’s rights.
  • Oxy violated Peru’s General Water Law and General Health Law, as well as environmental statutes meant to be applied in the hydrocarbon sector.

Read the full-text of the Press Release

EarthRights International has also signed onto a letter of concern to Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines regarding Peru’s oil block #39 and its impact on isolated indigenous peoples. Click here to read the full-text of the Spanish-language version.

Several media outlets have covered the story, including:
Reuters: Indigenous Peru Group Threatens to Sue Occidental
Inter Press Service News Agency: Oxy Faces Lawsuit Threat Over Amazon Toxins
Venice Paper: Venice Attorney Objects to Occidental’s Actions in the Amazon

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