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The Straight Facts about Bechtel

One of the biggest corporations in the world (bigger than Coca-Cola, slightly smaller than Microsoft), Bechtel is a wealthy and powerful private company that profits from building mega-projects for mining, oil and nuclear industries, leaving a legacy of environmental, social and economic devastation in its wake.

  • As co-manager of the ill-fated Three Mile Island nuclear power plant disaster cleanup, Bechtel was fined by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Office for deliberately circumventing safety procedures and "improperly classifying" modifications to the plant in attempts to avoid safety controls.

  • Bechtel was cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for 730 incidents of hazardous materials spills between 1990 and 1997.

  • Bechtel was recently kicked out of Cochabamba, Bolivia after attempting to privatize water rights. Bechtel is suing the poor people of Bolivia for lost investment dollars and potential lost future profits.

Internationally, the company is fighting charges of human rights abuses:

  • In 1997, Bechtel was condemned by Amnesty International regarding the Dabhol power plant project in India, a joint project with Enron. Amnesty said that critics of the project were subjected to “harassment, arbitrary arrest, preventive detention and ill-treatment” and pinned significant responsibility on the companies themselves.

  • In New Guinea, Bechtel helped build and still helps operate the infamous Freeport McMoRan Grasberg gold mine (the largest gold in the world). This operation dumped 120,000 tons of toxic waste from the mine into local rivers, devastating the rain forest. To protect the corporate interests of the companies, the Indonesian government has been involved in the torture and murder of many protesters concerned about their communities and their environment.

Bechtel has been a key player in numerous offenses against local communities and the environment:

  • Bechtel built the 215 dams and dykes of northern Quebec that flooded 68,000 square miles and destroyed the traditional fishing grounds of the Cree. Other victims included 10,000 caribou that drowned trying to cross a flooded river, and Beluga whales in the St. Lawrence estuary.

  • Bechtel was involved in the early stages of the Xiaolangdi Dam on the Yellow River in China, which dislocated over 80,000 people. In Papua New Guinea, the dam Bechtel was building to contain the waste from its Ok Tedi gold mine collapsed in 1984. Twelve years later, the local people successfully sued the operators of the mine for daily dumping 80,000 tons of toxic waste into their river.

Sources & Excerpts:
Maude Barlow , Council of Canadians, http://www.canadians.org/blueplanet/pubs-barlow1.html; Reclaim The Streets! San Francisco CA: guest.xinet.com/rts/past_actions/j18/topten1999 ( information on Bechtel's global operations provided by Pratap Chatterjee of Project Underground);


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Page Last Updated Jan 8, 2003
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