In 1993, a class action lawsuit on behalf of an estimated 30,000 Amazon residents was filed against oil giant Chevron, who at the time had recently purchased Texaco. The lawsuit alleged that Chevron was responsible for Texaco intentionally dumping “more than 19 billion gallons of toxic wastewaters” and “16.8 million gallons of crude oil” into Ecuador’s environment.
This past spring, a court-appointed expert recommended that “Chevron be required to pay between $8 billion and $16 billion to clean up the rain forest.” Finally having “to disclose the issue to its shareholders,” Chevron has launched “an unusually high-powered battle” to convince the Bush administration to pressure Ecuador to “quash the case.”
Chevron is pushing the Bush administration to take the extraordinary step of yanking special trade preferences for Ecuador if the country’s leftist government doesn’t quash the case. A spokesman for U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab confirmed that her office is considering the request. Attorney Steven Donziger, who is coordinating the D.C. opposition to Chevron, says the firm is “trying to get the country to cry uncle.” He adds: “It’s the crudest form of power politics.”
Chevron’s powerhouse team includes former Senate majority leader Trent Lott, former Democratic senator John Breaux and Wayne Berman, a top fund-raiser for John McCain—all with access to Washington’s top decision makers.
So far, Chevron’s power push has resulted in “a senior Chevron exec” meeting with Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte “on the matter.” “One Chevron lobbyist” told Newsweek that the company’s argument to the Bush administration is: “We can’t let little countries screw around with big companies like this—companies that have made big investments around the world.”