Hell Will Freeze Over Before Chevron Pays for Pollution
When 30,000 Ecuadorian villagers sued Chevron in 1993 for devastating the Amazon with 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater, the US-based oil giant’s reply was simple: “We will fight [the lawsuit] until hell freezes over,” said a representative. “And then fight it out on the ice.”
After investigators documented what they call a “Rainforest Chernobyl”—17 million gallons of spilled crude oil, more than 1,000 open waste pits full of toxic waste polluting the drinking water, and thousands of victims of cancer and birth defects—it seemed justice was served for the villagers. In 2011, an Ecuadorian court ruled against Chevron and demanded the company pay $19 billion in restitution. Ecuador’s Supreme Court later reduced the damages to $9.5 billion but upheld that ruling.
But on Tuesday, a U.S. court effectively overturned the ruling, which means Chevron has won the fight and hell, apparently, has frozen over. They’ve won using what activists say are dirty tactics, including filing a countersuit against the Ecuadorian villagers, claiming they had lied all along about the pollution caused to their properties as part of a shakedown scheme.
Chevron hired a legal team of more than 60 law firms and 2,000 legal professionals to argue that it’s not the villagers who are the victims here—it’s the corporation.
The Smog of War: China Battles Pollution
China’s environmental problems have become such an embarrassment to its leadership that the country suddenly finds itself on a war footing. On Wednesday, Premier Li Keqiang, the second-ranked political leader and head of economic policy, formally declared a “war on pollution” in a speech before the annual gathering of the National People’s Congress. The reform is welcome news, but overdue — and the outlook of the strategy Li outlined is about as clear as the morning sky on your run-of-the-mill, suffocating Beijing day.
Li called for the closure of 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces, the removal of 6 million old, emissions-belching vehicles from the streets, and new guidelines for air quality improvement in seriously affected northern Chinese cities. He described the state of Beijing’s air as “nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development.”
There’s even more frightening news out of Russia: A never-before-seen virus that lay dormant for 30,000 years under 100 feet of Siberian permafrost has come back to life. And it’s infectious. But don’t worry—scientists meant to do it.
— Could Global Warming Cause Our Next Pandemic? (via vicenews)
Shark fin demand has gone down so much in China, is it because people now understand how the industry works?
Chan: Yes! In the old days, nobody said where the sharks came from, where their fins came from. I think human beings, everybody has a good heart. When they see what’s happening, they stop eating, they stop buying.
We need education, day by day and month by month, to teach them. If we can use celebrities and famous people at the same time, we can correct and right things more quickly.
Is Australia Going to Kill the Great Barrier Reef on Friday?
The largest reef network in the world may be half dead, but Queensland, Australia needs jobs and Asia needs coal—and coal jobs trump everything. We’ll be reminded of this again on Friday, when the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority decide whether it’s appropriate to dump about 106 million cubic feet of dredged sand on the reef. This is part of a master plan to turn a smallish coal port named Abbot Point into the world’s largest, enabling it to single handedly process half of Queensland’s current coal output, which is also projected to be a third larger by 2030. With 64.6 percent (194.5 million tons) of Australia’s coal shipped out of Queensland in 2012, upping the state’s export capabilities is a priority, even though a bunch of mega-ports sit right next to the Great Barrier Reef. So do we dredge carefully, or do we dredge like we mean it?
Abbot Point is currently one of the smaller ports, about 15 miles north of Bowen and the most northerly in the state. It’s one of several lined up for expansion, but it was the first approved for dredging by Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt, back in December. There were a few ideas for disposing of the dredge spoil, including pumping it back to land, before it was decided that dropping it in the deep water amongst the reef was the way to go/cheap. Allegedly the sand will settle within 7-10 days and the coral won’t be affected, but the locals are up in arms, and according to Felicity Wishart from the Australian Marine Conservation Society, it’s for good reason.
Greenpeace activists climbed Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Família cathedral today. We talked to their spokesperson.
Chemical Valley, Part 1
Forty percent of Canada’s petrochemical industry is packed into a 15-square-mile area in Sarnia, Ontario, called the Chemical Valley. More than 60 chemical plants and oil refineries operate there 24/7. As a result of the Chemical Valley’s emissions, in 2011 the World Health Organization gave Sarnia the title of the “worst air” in all of Canada.
Watch the documentary