McGovern Leads Colleagues Calling on President Biden to Pardon Environmental Lawyer Steven Donziger
Donziger helped win a $9.5 billion judgment against Oil Giant Chevron for deliberately discharging billion of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon; Members Say “Intimidation Tactics” by Corporations and Courts Could Chill Future Attempts to Hold Corporate Polluters Accountable
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Rules Committee Chairman James P. McGovern, alongside House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Representatives Cori Bush (D-MO), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-IL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), sent a letter calling on President Biden to pardon environmental justice advocate Steven Donziger, who was put under house arrest in New York City for over 900 days while awaiting trial on a petty misdemeanor charge related to his legal work to hold corporate polluter Chevron responsible for one of the worst environmental catastrophes in history.
Donziger helped win a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron for deliberately discharging 16 billion gallons of toxic waste in the Ecuadorian Amazon between 1964 to 1992 – subjecting Black, brown, and Indigenous communities to deadly, carcinogenic waste from oil and gas production in one of the world’s most fragile and irreplaceable regions.
“We are deeply concerned that the legal case against Mr. Donziger personally was tied to his previous work again Chevron,” wrote the lawmakers. “In 2003, Mr. Donziger led a legal team in Ecuador on behalf of the Indigenous peoples, and other affected campesino communities of the Amazon basin, against Chevron for decades of dumping deadly, carcinogenic waste from oil and gas production on their lands in this environmentally fragile yet important region. The lawsuit resulted in a $9.5 billion judgement against Chevron, an amount the company has yet to pay.”
Beleaguered Amazon communities have stood by Mr. Donziger throughout this case. A coalition of 56 Nobel Prize Laureates, Amnesty International USA and other human rights organizations, and distinguished members of the European Parliament have issued statements, demanding Mr. Donziger’s immediate release from home detention, protesting the questionable and disparate treatment of Mr. Donziger by U.S. Courts, and requesting an investigation of potential judicial abuse. They also have called for the dismissal of the criminal contempt case against Mr. Donziger.
“Notwithstanding the personal hardship this unprecedented legal process has had on Mr. Donziger, we are deeply concerned about the chilling effect his case will have on attorneys working on behalf of other frontline communities, victims of human rights violations, and those seeking environmental justice in the future,” concluded the lawmakers. “Those working on behalf of marginalized communities will feel as though tactics of intimidation – at the hands of powerful corporate interests, and most troubling the U.S. courts – can succeed in stifling robust representation when it is needed most. That is a dangerous signal to send. We respectfully ask that you use your authority to pardon Mr. Donziger.”
The full text of the letter is available here.
“Chevron deliberately dumped billions of gallons of poisonous waste into Indigenous communities in the Amazon. When Steve and I went to Ecuador and visited these communities together, there were places where the stench of toxic chemicals was so strong it burned my nose. There were villages where nearly every family had been affected by cancer. These actions were appalling and immoral. Chevron has blood on its hands,” said Chairman McGovern. “Steve exposed their acts of corporate violence. And in response, Chevron executives used their unchecked power to rig the justice system against him—resulting in highly suspect and deeply troubling treatment by U.S. courts that made a mockery of justice, serving to bully and intimidate Steve and others who fight for environmental equity. President Biden should pardon Steve Donziger. This is about more than a court case—it’s about sending a message that corporate polluters need to be held accountable for breaking the law, and that they shouldn’t be allowed to harass and intimidate those who seek justice. The truth is that it’s the executives at Chevron, not Steve Donziger, who should have been put on trial for what they did.”