The saga of the environmental crusade against Chevron over pollution in Ecuador will be coming to San Francisco theater this month.
Filmmaker and investigative journalist Phelim McAleer co-wrote the play The 18-Billion Prize, with Jonathan Lear. Broadway World described as a “shocking and at times farcical tale of how an environmental lawsuit turned into the world's biggest fraud.”
Oil giant Chevron won in court again as a federal appellate court recently upheld a 2014 ruling blocking enforcement of an $8.65 billion claim against the oil company. But just as they did in 2014, the broadcast evening news shows ignored the latest in a decades-old legal fight.
Years earlier, CBS boosted the Ecuadorean battle against Chevron in a segment so biased Columbia Journalism Review’s “The Audit” blasted it for not checking facts. While all three networks should have reported the story, CBS had a greater responsibility given its history of biased coverage of the case.
Just as some in the press finally realized and admitted to serious ethical breaches in the legal crusade against Chevron, left-wing journalist Alexander Zaitchik continued to try to make the oil company look criminal.
And one major left-wing news operation bought into it.
In 2011, Steven Donziger, an activist lawyer won a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against Chevron environmental damage in Ecuador. But a U.S. district court ruled it a “fraud” in 2014, once it was apparent that Donziger’s own case was polluted and the award “obtained by corrupt means.”
Now, new evidence released as part of Chevron’s counter-suit reveals that not only did Donziger unethically win his court case in Ecuador, but the Vanity Fair reporter who ran a hit job on Chevron had worked closely with Donziger to make sure that the “facts” favored his position.
In a huge victory for the second-largest U.S. oil company, a U.S. district judge ruled March 4, that a $9.5 billion award against Chevron by an Ecuadorean court was “obtained by corrupt means.” The massive figure had been lowered by Ecuador’s highest court in 2013 after an earlier decision against Chevron of $19 billion.
The broadcast networks took no notice of the decision and failed to mention it on their evening news programming March 4. They found time to mention that Niagara Falls had once again frozen, report a trash problem on Mount Everest, say that rain didn’t stop the Mardi Gras party in New Orleans, and to show how people can make money with their home recipes.
When $27 billion is at stake, some companies would pay big bucks to win a PR battle, but one side of an environmental lawsuit doesn't have to, since CBS is pushing its position for free.
On CBS's May 3 "60 Minutes," correspondent Scott Pelley, who once compared global-warming skepticism to Holocaust denial, gave the plaintiff of a $27-billion frivolous lawsuit against Chevron a public relations victory with his report.
Pelley's report featured a suit filed by the Amazon Defense Coalition, a group described as "eco-radicals," who are trying to squeeze $27 billion from Chevron for environmental cleanup that the nation's government signed off on more than a decade ago. Pelley described ADC as working on behalf of 30,000 villagers, although there are only 48 named plaintiffs, to win funds for so-called environmental damage in Ecuador's rain forest from then-Texaco Petroleum's (Texpet) operation of oil well sites.