Media myth: Chevron is responsible for abandoned oil wells across Ecuador.
A South American country is trying to squeeze $27 billion out of Chevron for environmental cleanup from discarded oil wells - all with the help of the U.S. news media.
CBS "60 Minutes" and The New York Times took the side of "eco-radicals" at the Amazon Defense Coalition who have filed suit against Chevron, even though the government of Ecuador signed off on the company's cleanup actions more than 10 years ago.
It all began when Texaco Petroleum drilled for oil in Ecuador decades ago as the smaller part of a consortium with the state-run PetroEcuador. Oil is a messy business and when TexPet was ready to leave the country, it worked out a cleanup deal. TexPet spent $40 million cleaning up 40 percent of the sites - equal to its share of the consortium. It did a thorough job with the clean-up and the government of Ecuador signed a paper absolving TexPet of all obligations.
Since Chevron now owns Texaco, the environmental litigators have come after the company claiming that the oil wells have polluted the ground water and made people sick.
Scott Pelley's May 3 CBS report included six anti-Chevron voices versus just one spokeswoman for the company. It also ignored the corruption of the Ecuadorian courts. Pelley also used deceptive video footage - showing not the TexPet sites in question, but the government-run oil pits PetroEcuador is responsible for.
That's in part because PetroEcuador has a horrendous environmental record with more than 1,000 oil spills since 2000. In 2006, BusinessWeek said the company had "suffered an oil spill every two days this year."
The Times also stirred up hostility toward Chevron on May 15 saying, "Texaco's roughnecks are long gone, but black gunk from the pits seeps to the topsoil here and in dozens of other spots in Ecuador's northeastern jungle. These days the only Chevron employees who visit the former oil fields, in a region where resentment against the company runs high, do so escorted by bodyguards toting guns."