EPA study cites report from admitted data fakers

The Environmental Protection Agency’s revised draft assessment of an Alaska mine project cites research from environmental consultants who admitted falsifying a report in an environmental lawsuit.

The EPA’s new review of the potential Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska, relied on research from Stratus Consulting and Ann Maest, the company’s managing scientist. Stratus recently admitted to providing false statements in a decades-long $19 billion lawsuit against the oil company Chevron.

Maest and Stratus claimed earlier this month that they had been misled by a plaintiffs’ lawyer when they provided an environmental report detailing the damage done by Chevron subsidiary Texaco to areas of Ecuador. They disavowed the report as “tainted.”

The environmental impact report used against Chevron was supposed to be written by an independent expert, but was instead written by Stratus, which was employed by lawyers representing Ecuadorian villagers.

“I now believe that the damages assessment in the Cabrera Report and Cabrera Response is tainted. Therefore, I disavow any and all findings and conclusions in all of my reports and testimony on the Ecuador Project,” said Ann Maest, managing scientist for Stratus, in a court declaration.

Stratus was hired by trial lawyer Steven Donziger, who is representing Ecuadorian villagers against Chevron, alleging that Chevron is responsible for environmental damages caused by its subsidiary Texaco from 1964 to 1992. Chevron acquired Texaco in 2001.

Stratus executive vice president Doug Beltman said that Donziger ordered that portions of the report detailing the environmental damages be drafted in the first person to appear as if it were written by Richard Cabrera, the court-appointed independent expert.

“Donziger stressed to me and Ann Maest the importance of Stratus ensuring that no one learn of Stratus’ involvement in any aspect of the Cabrera Report or Responses,” said Beltman.

The ghost-written report was used as evidence during Chevron’s trial in Ecuador, which resulted in a $19 billion judgment against Chevron.

“I disavow any and all findings and conclusions in all of my reports and testimony on the Ecuador Project. I deeply regret that I allowed myself and my company to be used in the Lago Agrio Litigation in the way that we were,” Beltman said in his court declaration.

Chevron initiated a countersuit against Donziger and Stratus, accusing them of fraud and racketeering. Chevron dropped the suit after Stratus retracted its statements.

Beltman and Maest gave statements in which they “say they were not aware of scientific evidence of groundwater contamination in the former Texaco concession area or of any adverse health impact to people from the operations,” reported The New York Times.

“Stratus believes that the damages assessment in the Cabrera Report and the entire Cabrera process were fatally tainted and are not reliable,” the company said in a statement. “Stratus disavows the Cabrera Report, has agreed to cooperate fully and to provide testimony about the Ecuador litigation.”