Washington DC – Incoming Chevron CEO John S. Watson's debut speech in the nation's capitol addressed a range of issues from the future of the world's energy economy to rising gas prices to the company's $27 billion litigation in Ecuador for massive environmental contamination. Asked how he would address the massive oil pollution case as CEO, Watson toed the company line, vowing to continue Chevron's practice of evading responsibility for the contamination inherited from Texaco upon its acquisition of the company in 2001.
Activists challenged Mr. Watson as he spoke to the National Chamber Foundation at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today about "the importance of energy security to the long-term stability and success of the U.S. economy," according to the Chamber's announcement. Mr. Watson, the current Vice Chairman of Chevron Corporation's Board of Directors, was the chief architect of Chevron's deal to purchase Texaco, and will succeed current CEO of Chevron Dave O'Reilly on January 1, 2010.
Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network organized a rally outside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with dozens of people holding up signs that spelled out "Mr. Watson, What Will You Do About Ecuador?" Activists distributed a mock Washington Times article dated a few days into Watson's tenure in the first week of January. With the headline reading, "Chevron Announces Plan to Resolve Ecuador Oil Pollution Case," the article imagined a new approach for Chevron under the leadership of Mr. Watson. The mock article was handed to investors, media, and industry peers as they arrived, and distributed widely inside the event, for which The Washington Times served as "media partner."
During a question-and-answer session after his speech, Mr. Watson was asked by the moderator about his approach to the Ecuador pollution case. In reply, he asserted that the Chevron Ecuador case was an example of "a trend where U.S. trial lawyers conspire with corrupt governments" to bring legal actions. Mr. Watson continued, "We're heading toward a determination and judgment in Ecuador. We'll exhaust our legal remedies there, and if we lose, and if enforcement is sought elsewhere, we will fight them very vigorously."
"We hope that his comments today simply reflect the current conservative company stance, and that as CEO Mr. Watson will show more regard for the underlying facts in this case, and will lead his company in a more socially responsible and forward-looking direction," said Mitch Anderson of Amazon Watch. "Mr. Watson was a key player in Chevron's purchase of Texaco and is intimately familiar with Texaco's oil pollution in Ecuador's Amazon. As CEO, he will be well positioned to take immediate steps to clean up the contamination in Ecuador and provide relief to the tens of thousands of people whose environment, communities, and lives have been impacted."
"By focusing energy on evading responsibility instead of cleaning up the mess in Ecuador, Chevron is letting children suffer from some of the world's most heinous environmental destruction when they could be doing something about it," said Rebecca Tarbotton, Program Director of Rainforest Action Network.
For more information about Amazon Watch's campaign, visit: www.ChevronToxico.com .
Amazon Watch works to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. We partner with indigenous and environmental organizations in campaigns for human rights, corporate accountability and the preservation of the Amazon's ecological systems. Amazon Watch's Clean Up Ecuador Campaign has been providing critical support to the affected communities
in their pursuit of justice and environment cleanup.
Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break America's oil addiction, protect endangered forests and indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org