The New York Times features a longish piece today about the litigation brought by a New York trial lawyer and the Amazon Defense Coalition against Chevron over claims of environmental damage in Ecuador, “Ecuador Oil Pollution Case Only Grows Murkier.”
Well, maybe it’s murky because the paper doesn’t bother to report basic facts, like who actually brought the lawsuit. It’s as if the $27 billion in legal claims just appeared.
The lawsuit is being financed by the Philadelphia law firm of Kohn, Swift and Graf, directed by New York trial lawyer Steven Donziger, and marketed by the Amazon Defense Coalition, which would receive the money from any settlement. And the legal/activist lawsuit is indeed a shakedown intended to force a settlement from Chevron for pollution supposedly left by Texaco, which Chevron purchased in 2001. Texaco operated in Ecuador as Texpet in a joint exploration and production venture with the government-owned oil company, Petroecuador, up until 1992. (See this Texaco history, “Chevron in Ecuador.”)
1992. 1992. 1992. 1992. We stress the year because any oil now appearing as liquid in Ecuador is the responsibility of Petroecuador. First, TexPet remediated all the sites assigned to it for clean-up by the government of Ecuador, which released the company from future claims. Second, oil doesn’t stay liquid on the surface for 17 years!
Those facts notwithstanding, here are the photo and caption the Times used to illustrate today’s story. (In the paper, it’s a five-column black-and-white photo, 6-1/2 inches deep, i.e., big.)
So the Times has illustrated a story about charges of pollution against Chevron with a photo of an oil pit (and flare-offs) created by Petroecuador. And doesn’t bother to tell the readers what they are seeing in the paper has nothing to do with Chevron.
The activists use the trick all the time, pointing to unrelated pollution and claiming Chevron is to blame, but shouldn’t the Times have higher standards? The truth isn’t THAT murky.
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