18-year court battle decided in favor of indigenous people; oil company vows to appeal the ruling
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — In a potentially precedent-setting ruling in the arena of environmental law, an Ecuadorian court this week ruled that Chevron must pay $9 billion in damages for oil pollution in remote Amazon rainforests.
The case has been under litigation for 18 years and dates back to oil exploration activities by Texaco in the 1970s, before the company was acquired by Chevron.
Environmental advocates said it’s the first time indigenous people have successfully sued a big multi-national corporation for environmental wrong-doing.
Chevron officials said they won’t pay the fines and will appeal the ruling.
“As of today, Chevron’s guilt for extensive oil contamination in the Amazon rainforest is official. It is time Chevron takes responsibility for these environmental and public health damages, which they have fought for the past 18 years.
“Today’s ruling in Ecuador against Chevron proves overwhelmingly that the oil giant is responsible for billions of gallons of highly toxic waste sludge deliberately dumped into local streams and rivers, which thousands depend on for drinking, bathing, and fishing.
“Chevron has spent the last 18 years waging unprecedented public relations and lobbying campaigns to avoid cleaning up the environmental and public health catastrophe it left in the Amazon rainforest. Today’s guilty verdict sends a loud and clear message: It is time Chevron clean up its disastrous mess in Ecuador.”
Texaco was accused of dumping huge quantities — perhaps millions of gallons — of toxic sludge into rainforests streams and ponds. Chevron inherited the lawsuit when it bought Texaco.
Chevron officials said in a press release they will appeal the decision in Ecuador and try to block enforcement of the ruling in U.S. courts.
“We believe today’s judgment affirms what the plaintiffs have contended for the past 18 years about Chevron’s intentional and unlawful contamination of Ecuador’s rainforest. Until we have had a chance to review the lengthy decision, we will not be able to comment in detail,” said Pablo Fajardo, the lead Ecuadorian attorney representing the indigenous tribes suing Chevron for oil contamination.
“As a general matter, the plaintiffs provided the court with a great quantum of scientific and documentary evidence that Chevron deliberately and in violation of all industry norms discharged billions of gallons of toxic waste into the rainforest and into the water supply relied on by thousands of Ecuadorian citizens,” Fajardo said.
“Rather than accept that responsibility, Chevron has launched a campaign of warfare against the Ecuadorian courts and the impoverished victims of its unfortunate practices. We call on the company to end its polemical attacks and search jointly with the plaintiffs for common solutions. We believe the evidence before the court deserves international respect and the plaintiffs will take whatever actions are appropriate consistent with the law to press the claims to a final conclusion,” he concluded.
Click here for more info from rainforest watchdog groups and environmental advocates.