C: Caroline Bennett / Rainforest Action Network
C: Caroline Bennett / Rainforest Action Network

Yesterday a coalition of some 50 environmental, indigenous and human rights groups sent an unprecedented letter to Californian policymakers and US-based corporations involved in the processing, use or financing of Amazon crude to “stem the influx of crude oil into the United States” from the region.

Some sixty per cent of crude oil from the Western Amazon is shipped to the US, predominantly to California, so ending oil importation to the US is crucial to preserving the rainforest and global climate.

In a strongly worded letter, the groups, led by the irrepressible Amazon Watch and including organisations such as 350, Greenpeace, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth and OCI, and dozens of others outlined how:

“Expanding oil drilling in the Amazon rainforest runs counter to the scientific imperative to keep at least two-thirds of fossil fuel reserves in the ground to avoid reaching two degrees Celsius of warming and to have a fighting chance at escaping the most catastrophic effects of climate change.”

The letter continued: “Continuing to expand the fossil fuel frontier in places like the Amazon will lead the world to drastically miss the Paris Accord targets, with severe consequences for our climate.”

The fight over oil in the Amazon is a bitter one stretching back decades and its most typified by Texaco’s toxic legacy in Ecuador. Lawyers representing Ecuadorian indigenous communities have sought to force Chevron to pay for water and soil contamination caused from 1964 to 1992 by Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001. The multi-jurisdictional legal struggle for justice continues to this day against Chevron.

Last year, the US Supreme Court announced a significant victory for Chevron by preventing Ecuadorean villagers and their American lawyer from trying to claim the $8.65 billion pollution judgment issued against the oil company by a court in Ecuador a few years previously.

In response, the plaintiffs have said they will continue to enforce the judgment in other countries, including Canada, regardless of the disappointing outcome in the United States.

At the time, New York-based lawyer Steven Donziger, who has spent two decades fighting Chevron and Texaco said: “The Supreme Court’s decision closes a chapter and will allow the global public to properly focus on the true substance of the case, which is an international judgment enforcement process – in which U.S. courts have no role – and the devastating environmental and human tragedy that both Chevron and the global community need to address”.

Yesterday’s letter is part of getting the global community to address the toxic legacy of oil from the Amazon, especially a region which is so culturally and ecologically sensitive. The letter outlines how: “The negative implications of continued oil drilling in the Amazon are particularly egregious given the region’s global ecological and cultural significance.”

To protect the region, Amazon Watch and others are calling for:

  • “Financial institutions: publicly disclose company investments in climate-related holdings, divest all portfolios from any financing of exploration or drilling of Amazon crude, and, if you are an Equators Principles Financial Institution (EPFI), urge fellow EPFIs to adopt new, stronger principles.
  • Companies with large transport footprints: identify and eliminate company use of Amazon crude in transport operations and issue a public statement regarding steps taken to go Amazon crude-free; expand company commitments to clean, renewable energy.
  • California policymakers: curb the importation of Amazon crude to California through legislation and/or regulatory action; support legislation that seeks to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels.”

Steven Donziger is still working on the case too, despite a dirty tricks campaign by Chevron to “demonize him” that included paying secretative corporate investigations company, Kroll at least $15 million to spy on him and six public relations companies to spin stories against him.

“For more than two decades, Steven Donziger has taken on one of the largest and most important fights for corporate accountability in history,” says Paul Paz y Mino, from Amazon Watch. “His ability to stare down one of the most vicious corporate attacks ever is nothing short of astounding and serves as an inspiration to untold numbers of people around the world.”