By Roger Parloff, senior editor
FORTUNE -- In filings Friday morning in federal court in Manhattan, Chevron has submitted statements from the top two scientific experts for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs suing the company for alleged oil contamination, disavowing essentially all of their previous findings and conclusions in the case -- findings that formed the purported basis for a $19 billion judgment handed down by an Ecuadorian provincial court against Chevron in February 2011.
"I disavow any and all findings and conclusions in all of my reports and testimony on the Ecuador Project," writes Douglas Beltman, the executive vice president of Boulder-based Stratus Consulting, who headed the firm's assignment. "I deeply regret that I allowed myself and my company to be used in the Lago Agrio Litigation in the way that we were."
"I am not aware," he writes later in the report, "of any scientific data that shows that any adverse health effects are caused by contamination from petroleum operations in the Oriente" -- i.e., the Eastern provinces of Ecuador where Texaco performed drilling operations between 1964 and 1992. (Texaco was acquired by Chevron (CVX) in 2001.)
In 28-page and 16-page declarations, Beltman and the No. 2 environmental expert on the project, Ann Maest, state that the plaintiffs' chief U.S. lawyer, Steven Donziger, directed the firm to ghostwrite a crucial damages assessment report for an ostensibly neutral and independent court-appointed expert, Richard Cabrera. They say that Donziger instructed them to keep Stratus's involvement in the writing secret even from the plaintiff team's then-communications director, Karen Hinton, as well as from Donziger's then-law associate, Andrew Wood.
Stratus, Beltman, and Maest reached a cooperation agreement with Chevron last month, finalized this week, that calls for the firm to make its experts available to give "truthful testimony" in exchange for Chevron's agreement to drop the three of them from a civil racketeering suit it filed in 2011 against them, Donziger, and several lead Ecuadorian lawyers in the case.
Attorney Craig Smyser of Houston, who represents the Ecuadorian plaintiffs team in the RICO case, says in a statement: "Chevron bullied Stratus until Stratus had no choice but to succumb: The firm was faced with financial extinction" from the RICO suit and its potential consequences to its government contracting business.
Smyser quotes language that an attorney then representing Stratus filed in court three months ago, stating: "Chevron knows that based on scientific data collected during the Lago Agrio litigation, including data collected by Chevron, Stratus actually found that contamination was present at every single well site and station that was sampled ... [causing] a huge amount of environmental damage costing immense sums to remediate."
Oil giant Vitol would rank higher than Chevron on the Fortune Global 500 list if it were public.
By Brian O'Keefe, assistant managing editor
FORTUNE -- The world's largest independent oil trader, the Vitol Group, has surpassed $300 billion in revenues for the first time.
According to results released on Thursday by Vitol, which is privately held, the trading giant's gross sales reached $303 billion in 2012. That figure was up modestly MOREFeb 28, 2013 8:00 AM ET
Last year, Fortune went inside the Kulluk, the oil-drilling ship Shell planned to use to tap oil reserves in the Arctic Ocean. Now those hopes may be dashed.
By Jon Birger
FORTUNE -- Last March I became the first journalist in 25 years to board the Kulluk, the Shell oil-drilling ship now at the center of an environmental drama unfolding in the Gulf of Alaska.
The Kulluk is a circular-shaped drilling barge, MOREJan 3, 2013 8:58 AM ET
Ecology, geopolitics, and big business intersect on the Arctic coast. A review of The Eskimo and the Oil Man: The battle at the top of the world for America's future, by Bob Reiss
By Tory Newmyer, writer
FORTUNE – Perched on the northern edge of Alaska, the town of Barrow is under siege. Rapid climate change threatens its physical infrastructure. Multinational oil companies seek to drill in the waters off its MOREJun 8, 2012 6:38 AM ET
This summer, the energy giant will begin exploring off the icy coast of Alaska -- after years of resistance by environmentalists. The payoff could be the largest U.S. offshore oil discovery in a generation.
By Jon Birger, contributor
FORTUNE -- Pete Slaiby is eating breakfast with an Eskimo businessman at a Mexican restaurant across the street from the Arctic Ocean when two Coast Guard admirals happen to walk in. It's 8 MOREMay 24, 2012 9:19 AM ET
Our Weekly Read column features Fortune staffers' and contributors' takes on recently published books about the business world and beyond. We've invited the entire Fortune family -- from our writers and editors to our photo editors and designers -- to weigh in on books of their choosing based on their individual tastes or curiosities. In this installment, writer Katie Benner reviews The Asylum: The Renegades Who Hijacked the World's Oil Market, Leah McGrath Goodman's wilder-than-fiction MOREOct 21, 2011 1:14 PM ET
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