N.Y., Calif. unite to pressure ChevronTexaco over Ecuador eco-damage

California controller calls for review of CEO O'Reilly's handling of $6 billion litigation over rainforest environmental damage from the company's operations there. Amazon Watch issues statement regarding ChevronTexaco shareholder meeting...

SAN RAMON, CA, April 27, 2005 (PRNewswire) -- The pressure on ChevronTexaco over its historic $6 billion Ecuador rainforest trial increased significantly this week when trustees from the three largest public pension funds in the United States called on the company to take action to resolve the dispute -- and in a direct rebuke to company management, California Controller Steve Westly requested that the Board of Directors conduct an independent review of the situation in Ecuador.

The lawsuit on behalf of five indigenous tribes and 80 communities alleges Texaco dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into Ecuador's rainforest during its two decades of operations in Ecuador's Amazon region, from 1970 to 1992. The amount of crude dumped amounts to roughly 30 times the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster.

Alan Hevesi, comptroller of New York who represents the second largest public pension fund in the country, released a statement that said: "I find it troubling that ChevronTexaco's reputation continues to suffer because it has not been able to resolve its issues in Ecuador. Each day that this environmental and health crisis continues, ChevronTexaco's future business opportunities abroad are more at risk. As an institutional investor, I hope that the company will resolve its issues in Ecuador as soon as possible."

Westly, who sits on the board of trustees of both CalPERS and CalSTRS (respectively the largest and third-largest public pension funds in the country), released a statement calling on the ChevronTexaco Board "to undertake an independent review of the situation [in Ecuador]."

Westly said: "ChevronTexaco is a California company that has based its reputation on going the extra mile to be a good neighbor in the California community. I am concerned that actions taken by Texaco prior to its merger with Chevron in 2001 may be tarnishing that hard-earned reputation."

CalPERS, CalSTRS and New York Common pension funds hold more than $2 billion dollars worth of ChevronTexaco stock. The funds have voted for a shareholder resolution seeking a management report on the litigation.

The trial is the first time that rainforest dwellers have forced a multinational oil company to be subjected to jurisdiction in their national courts. It is expected to conclude next year.

These statements and information about the legal case is at www.chevrontoxico.com, which is sponsored by a consortium of groups in support of the indigenous tribes in Ecuador.

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