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Monday, Apr. 28, 2008 at 11:42 AM
“Oxy systematically dumped nine billion barrels of toxic wastewater into the Northern Peruvian Amazon, in Achuar territory. They’re unwilling to clean it up, so we are going to be out there on Wednesday at 12:30 teaching them how to clean up after themselves. " -- Mitchell Anderson of Amazon Watch
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On Wednesday April 30 and Friday May 2, there will be demonstrations against L.A.-based Occidental Petroleum over pollution and illness caused by nearly 30 years of oil sdrilling in the Peruvian Amazon. The first event, a mock clean-up will take place at the company's headquarters, the second will be outside the annual shareholder's meeting. According to Amazon Watch, Occidental Petroleum is sensitive to this kind of publicity.
“Occidental Petroleum arrived in the Peruvian Amazon in 1971," explained Amazon Watch's Mitchell Anderson, "and then operated there for close to three decades, dumping nine billion barrels of toxic waste water into the Peruvian Amazon, devastating both the sensitive rainforest ecosystems there and the livelihood of the Achuar indigenous people [of ] both Northeastern Peru and Eastern Ecuador.
"Essentially, what Chevron did in Ecuador, Occidental Petroleum did in Peru. They made a deliberate decision to save money [by] not reinjecting the toxic wastewaters (the byproduct of oil drilling) into the earth. Instead, they decided to gouge out hundreds of open-air, unlined earthen pits and dump the toxic waste products into these pits and into the rivers and waterways of the Amazon. . . . . They dumped an average of 850 thousand barrels of toxic wastewater per day when they were operating there.
“This has led to cancer rates being higher, higher lead levels [in] blood, which leads to developmental problems in the communities.
“The lawsuit is asking for Occidental Petroleum to fund full-scale environmental remediation of the territories, [as well as] compensation for living in a degraded environment for the last 30-something years: the health affects, damage caused, displacement from their land.
“The lawsuit was filed one year ago, the judge in Los Angeles just dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds, saying that the United States isn’t the appropriate jurisdiction for this case to be heard, that Peru is. The Achuars’ lawyers are going to decide, with the affected community, whether or not to appeal that decision or to pursue justice in Peru.”
Mitchell said that the Peruvian government has already auctioned off 70% of the land to international oil companies. “This is a modern-day Gold Rush occurring in the Peruvian Amazon for oil,” he said. However, “the Achuar people of Northern Peru have developed a very strong and explicit position on oil development in their territories, demanding no new oil exploration or production in their lands.”
He believes that for the Achuars who will be attending next week's events, this is their first trip outside of Peru.
Other participants, in Wednesday's event, will include celebrities such as Daryl Hannah, and "we’re expecting over 100-200 supporters in Los Angeles, dressed in hazardous material suits in a mock clean-up of Occidental Petroleum’s headquarters."
On Friday, May 2, there will be a rally outside Oxy’s annual shareholder’s meeting. Also, “[w]e’re going to go into the shareholder meeting on other people’s proxies,” Mitchell continued. “We actually are going to be with three or four Achuar indigenous leaders in Peru along with human rights lawyer Lily La Torre from Lima. We’re going to speak to the CEO of Occidental.”
He said that shareholders will be targeted, too. “[R]aising this issue in front of shareholders is very important as well as senior management, so they’ll know that we are going to be ramping up this campaign over the years. Occidental Petroleum should also take note of the fate that Chevron is in based on their tactics of delaying, denying, and essentially intimidating the plaintiffs in the trial out of Ecuador. They’re facing $7-$16 billion liability. We’re going to be there to tell Oxy and their shareholders that if they don’t take the right course and do the right thing in Peru, years down the road based on the evidence, they also are going to be facing a huge multi-billion dollar liability. And the shareholders should be concerned about this now.”
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