Ocean County Library joins the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and other libraries throughout the state by presenting “Face to Face: Community Conversations on Environmental Justice” beginning with a screening of “Crude: The Real Price of Oil” in the Toms River branch, 101 Washington St., Tuesday, April 26 at 6 p.m.
“Crude: The Real Price of Oil” tells of one of the largest and most controversial legal and environmental cases in the world. The plaintiffs claim that oil company, Texaco, which merged with Chevron in 2001, spent three decades contaminating the Lago Agrio area in Amazonian Ecuador, one of the earth’s most bio-diverse regions, and is responsible for cleanup of the area.
The plaintiffs, residents from the Lago Agrio area, further allege the oil company created a “death zone” the size of Rhode Island, resulting in increased rates of cancer and birth defects and their operations contributed to the destruction of indigenous peoples.
The plaintiffs also say Texaco dumped billions of liters of polluted water in the jungle for more than two decades before the company left Ecuador in the early 1990s.
Chevron is fighting the claims. They have also filed a civil lawsuit against the trial lawyers and consultants for the plaintiffs under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) Feb. 1, 2011 before the US District Court of the Southern District of New York.
While the area is clearly polluted because of chemical contamination, Chevron said on its Web site the problem was the result of procedures used by later owners, including Petroecuador, Ecuador’s state-owned oil company.
Prior to 1992 Petroecuador owned 62% of the consortium with Texaco. After 1992, and the completion of a remediation project that the government certified was complete, Petroecuador became sole operator of the oil company.
“If you’re seeing fresh oil today … how can that be the responsibility of a company that stopped operating in 1990?” asked Kent Robertson in an interview published by Reuters (Sept. 9, 2009.) Robertson is a spokesman for Chevron based in San Ramon, California.
New York Times film critic A. O Scott reviewed the film Sept. 9, 2009 and wrote that while the film does not pretend neutrality, he added it presented an even handed and balanced treatment of the subject matter, including rebuttals from the company’s executives and in-house environmental scientists.
The film, by Joe Berlinger, documents the 17-year court battle between the indigenous people of the Lago Agrio region in Ecuador and the oil company.
It has received more than 20 awards, including being named one of the Top Five Documentaries of the Year by the National Board of Review, and receiving the award for Best International Green Film at Berlin’s Cinema for Peace festival.
The film has also been shown in more than 80 festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival, and a special screening for members of the U. S. Congress.
Since the film was first screened, the Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbios in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, ruled Feb. 7, 2011 that Chevron was responsible for the environmental impact on the area and fined the company at total of more than $18 billion.
Chevron has filed an appeal with the government in Ecuador as well as with entities outside that country, including the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
A discussion of this highly-charged topic will follow the screening of the film. The discussion will be led by Brookdale Community College professor Tom Cioppa.
Cioppa will also lead two follow-up programs June 16 and July 14 to discuss selected reading about environmental issues. The readings will be taken from “American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau” and “So Glorious a Landscape: Nature and the Environment in American History and Culture.” Both discussions will be held at the Toms River branch, 101 Washington St., and will begin at 7 p.m.
These programs are free and open to the public. Register on the library Web site www.theoceancountylibrary.org or by telephone (732) 349-6200 or (609) 971-0514.