“Before Texaco arrived in Ecuador, we lived well. Our rivers, lakes and streams were rich in fish, their waters were clean and there was ample game in the forest. Then Texaco built roads, wells and pipelines, and with that everything changed. Texaco cut down our forests, polluted our environment, brought new diseases, damaged our gardens and made fish and game disappear. The colonists came and our lands were occupied by strangers.”
Makarik Nihua

“It certainly sounds like something Hollywood might cook up, but this story is very real. The country is Ecuador, the oil company is Texaco....It’s a sad story, the history of oil in Ecuador. It’s a story of a weak Ecuadorian government selling out the needs of the citizens and the ecology of the Oriente [Amazon region] in favor of economic development and the interests of a major multinational corporation....”
ABC Nightline, Profit and Loss

Texaco (now ChevronTexaco) extracted nearly 1.5 billion barrels of oil from the Ecuadorian Amazon, over 28 years. It drilled 339 wells in an area that spans more than a million acres. As the first company to discover commercial quantities of Amazon Crude, Texaco set the standard for operations there, and taught Ecuadorians how to work in the oil fields. But Texaco’s technology did not include environmental protection, and Ecuadorian oil field workers were so unaware of the hazards of crude oil that they put it on their heads to prevent balding. Texaco created an environmental disaster that continues to get worse:

* Spills from the main pipeline alone dumped more than 19 million gallons of crude oil into the environment, nearly twice as much as the Exxon Valdez;
* Tons of toxic drilling and maintenance wastes, and more than 19 billion gallons of oil field brine (with heavy metals, toxic levels of salts, and hydrocarbons like benzene and PAHs) were deliberately dumped into waters and soils;
* Natural gas — which is extracted with the oil — is burned as a waste, contaminating the air and rain with soot, greenhouse gases, precursors of acid rain and other pollutants that likely include dioxin;
* Oil roads opened millions of acres of rainforest to colonization and deforestation;
* Roads are also a source of pollution because they are sprayed with oil for dust control and maintenance;
* Hundreds of unlined waste ponds have been abandoned without proper clean-up.

In 1992, Texaco handed over its antiquated infrastructure to Ecuador’s national oil company, Petroecuador. As oil fields age, they generate more wastes and less oil, and risks of spills increase. So among other problems, Texaco’s facilities now discharge millions of gallons of toxic wastes into the environment every day, a practice that has been banned in the U.S. since 1979. Waste ponds continue to leak, spills from aging pipelines are common, and gas flares burn day and night. Petroecuador and other oil companies continue to expand their operations, and a culture of impunity persists. Health problems are growing.

In the headwaters of the world’s greatest remaining tropical rainforest — an ecosystem that is world renowned for biological richness and is believed to contain 20-25 of the world’s flowing fresh water — many families no longer have clean water or enough food.