Oil waterOil contaminated water in the the Ecuadorean Amazon rainforest.Photo: Caroline Bennett for Rainforest Action NetworkCross-posted from the Wonk Room.

Chevron, responsible for a multi-billion-dollar environmental disaster in Ecuador, is instead spending millions to shore up political support and to evade the cleanup. Senate disclosure forms reveal that oil giant Chevron spent $2.9 million lobbying the federal government last quarter, eclipsing even Exxon ($2.6 million) and BP ($2.2 million). Chevron’s 2010 lobbying totaled $12.89 million, following a tremendous outlay in 2009 of $20.8 million. Chevron also recently launched a major greenwashing campaign, “We Agree,” which claims that it shares the public concern that “oil companies should put their profits to good use” and “oil companies should support the communities they’re a part of.” However, Chevron is also spending millions to defend itself in a 17-year-old lawsuit over the billions of tons of toxic waste its now-subsidiary company Texaco dumped into the Ecuadorian watershed. The case is finally nearing its conclusion in the Ecuadorian court system:

The attorneys representing Amazonian communities in a lawsuit against Chevron have submitted their final argument to a judge in Ecuador, the latest development in a legal saga involving the oil giant that that began nearly two decades ago. The plaintiffs are seeking up to $113 billion in compensation for environmental damages in the Amazon.

Ecuador, smaller than the state of Nevada, is a remarkable hotbed of diversity. The rich life lies above significant oil reserves — another legacy of millions of years of biological richness. Those reserves have both fueled and threatened the future of the nation and its peoples. The costs of the extraction — including 16 billion gallons of toxic waste water — have been been borne by the indigenous communities of the Amazon watershed, even as the profits were enjoyed elsewhere. The closing argument made by the plaintiffs sums up the toxic record of Chevron in this case:

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The evidence makes it clear and unmistakable that Chevron is guilty. Guilty of polluting the rainforests with toxic sludge from lucrative oil drilling operations, guilty of a shoddy and haphazard cleanup operation, guilty of letting toxic waste continue to devastate the rainforest and its inhabitants’ lives, and perhaps worst of all, guilty of trying to cover it all up by destroying documents and making false accusations of fraud before courts in the U.S. and Ecuador. Chevron’s complete disdain for Ecuador, its courts, and its citizens was captured perfectly by a Chevron lobbyist who told Newsweek: “We can’t let little countries screw around with big companies like this — companies that have made big investments around the world.”

So far, Chevron disagrees.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.