Texaco haunted by dirty legacy in Ecuador

At a ChevronTexaco shareholder meeting today in California, Amazonian community leaders, celebrities, and activists will confront company officials, focusing attention anew on Texaco’s messy legacy in Ecuador. Twenty years of oil exploration in the nation left much of the western edge of the Amazon rainforest in ecological ruin and many villagers with unusually high rates of illness. Though Texaco fled Ecuador back in 1992, its joint venture with the nation’s state oil company left behind some 600 unlined open sludge pits, compromised or destroyed about 2.5 million acres of rainforest, and released an estimated 20 billion gallons of wastewater directly into waterways. For its part, ChevronTexaco says it took care of the contamination in 1995 when it paid $40 million in cleanup costs to the Ecuadorian government. But locals and enviros estimate that a thorough cleanup would run about $6 billion, precisely what activists are seeking in cases winding through U.S. and Ecuadorian courts.