Environmental award triggers controversy

The awarding on Monday of the Goldman Environmental Prize to a pair of Ecuadoran activists fighting oil giant Chevron to clean up pollution in the Amazon rainforest has sparked a controversy over an international ecological disaster.

The two men, lawyer Pablo Fajardo Mendoza and community organizer Luis Yanza, were among six grassroots environmentalists from around the world who were awarded the prize, often characterized as the Nobel Prize for the environment, in San Francisco.

Fajardo said that a report filed earlier this month by a court-appointed expert in Ecuador found high levels of cancer and miscarriages and continuing toxic contamination, attributable at least in part to Chevron Corp. But Chevron said the organizers of the Goldman Prize had been misled about the prize winners’ green credentials and blames state oil company Petroecuador for much of the pollution.

"They have given an award to two people who are far from deserving," said Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson. "These individuals have stood in the way of Petroecuador’s long overdue remediation. The only thing green they are interested in is money."

Another winner, Marina Rikhvanova, was awarded the prize because of her four-year struggle to protect Lake Baikal from an oil pipeline slated to be built near the lake. "Marina Rikhvanova is one of the most prominent grassroots environmental activists in Russia," said Dmitry Lisitsyn of Sakhalin Environment Watch. "She is able to bring together diverse stakeholders, different parties and organizations, in battles against dangerous resource extraction projects."

See full story