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Earth Rights Intl/Amazon Watch: Report: Occidental Petroleum Polluted Peruvian Amazon and Poisoned Indigenous Communities

MAY 3, 2007
12:25 PM

CONTACT: Earth Rights Intl/Amazon Watch 
Riptide Communications, 212-260-5000
Simeon Tegel, Amazon Watch, 510-962-0195

Report: Occidental Petroleum Polluted Peruvian Amazon and Poisoned Indigenous Communities
LA-Based Oil Giant’s Conduct Leads to Legal Liability in the US
LOS ANGELES - May 3 – A report released today, on the eve of Occidental Petroleum’s (Oxy) annual general meeting (AGM), reveals that the LA-based oil giant deliberately ignored industry standards and employed out-of-date practices for 30 years, resulting in severe cadmium and lead poisoning among indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon.

According to the report, based on information gathered by a team of experts in May 2006 – including a doctor, nurse, lawyers, soil scientist, agronomist, environmental engineer, and chemist – children from five Achuar communities in the Corrientes River basin of the Peruvian Amazon now have unusually high concentrations of lead and cadmium in their blood, at levels known to cause developmental problems.

Andrés Sandi Mucushua, President of the Federation of Native Communities of the Corrientes River (FECONACO), said: “My people have suffered for 35 years from Oxy’s presence. Oxy has extracted petroleum from our ancestral territory, contaminating and destroying it. We have seen our rivers, farms, and animals sicken and we have become ill and died from the contamination. We have opposed oil drilling on our territory. It is important that Oxy shareholders are told what Oxy has done and continues to do in the Peruvian Amazon.”

Published by EarthRights International (ERI), Racimos de Ungurahui, and Amazon Watch (AW), the report also alleges that Oxy flouted Peruvian law and international human rights norms. The report found:

• Oxy dumped an average of 850,000 barrels per day of toxic oil by-products directly into rivers and streams used by the Achuar for drinking, bathing, washing, and fishing – totaling approximately nine billion barrels during the 30 years of operation.
• Oxy used earthen pits, prohibited by U.S. standards, to store drilling fluids, crude oil, and crude by-products. These pits, dug directly into the ground, were open, unlined, and routinely overflowed onto the ground and into surface waters, leaching into the surrounding soil and groundwater
• Oxy violated several international rights norms – including several in the American Convention on Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights – in its actions on Achuar territory, including the right to life, the right to health, the right to a healthy environment, and indigenous people’s rights.
• Oxy violated Peru’s General Water Law and General Health Law, as well environmental statutes meant to be applied in the hydrocarbon sector.
• As a U.S. corporation, Oxy’s disregard for the law and for the well-being of the Achuar could subject it to legal liability in the U.S. as well as in Peru.

ERI previously brought a lawsuit against Unocal, another LA-based oil company, for abuses in Burma, concluding in a landmark settlement in 2005. Ka Hsaw Wa, ERI's Executive Director, noted, “Oil companies think only about profits – they are blind to human rights and the environment. As an indigenous person from Burma whose people have suffered greatly at the hands of Unocal, I am compelled to act against similar abuses being experienced by my Achuar brothers and sisters.”

Atossa Soltani, Amazon Watch Executive Director, added: “Oxy’s history of disregard for the law and for the most basic human rights of the Achuar is appalling. Oxy needs to move decisively and rectify its past mistakes by cleaning up its toxic mess and helping the Achuar deal with their health problems. Otherwise this scandal could haunt Oxy for years to come with negative publicity and potential legal actions.”

ERI, FECONACO, and AW will also be holding a sidewalk rally, press briefing and photo op with celebrities and indigenous delegation on Friday May 4, 2007 from 9:45am to 10:15am and a press briefing at 12:00pm to give feedback from Oxy’s Annual General Meeting outside the Fairmount Miramar Hotel, 101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, California. (The AGM takes place in the hotel from 10:30am to 12:00pm). Participants will be available for interviews.

Teleconference about the report at 11am PST on Thursday May, 3.

US direct dial 719-234-0201
US/Canada toll free 888-288-9321
International toll free – Colombia 01 800 518 0408
International toll free – Ecuador 1 800 010 170
International toll free – Venezuela 0 800 100 4684
Participant code for all callers 539547

EarthRights International (ERI) is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that combines the power of law and the power of people in defense of human rights and the environment. Focusing on earth rights, we work at the intersection of human rights and the environment. We specialize in fact-finding, legal actions against perpetrators of earth rights abuses, training for grassroots and community leaders, and advocacy campaigns that seek to end earth rights abuses and promote and protect earth rights.

FECONACO is a federation representing Achuar, Kichwa and Urarina indigenous communities along the Corrientes River. Founded in 1991, FECONACO defends the environmental and cultural rights of its member communities.

Amazon Watch is an environmental and human rights organization based in San Francisco, California. We work to help indigenous communities in the Amazon basin defend their territories and culture from the impacts of large-scale industrial “development” such as oil and gas drilling.


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