Ecuador Court Fines Chevron $8 billion

Monday, February 14 an Ecuadorian court ordered Chevron to pay $8 billion in damages to close a chapter on an 18-year-old lawsuit. (Chevron plans to appeal.)  This is the second largest damage award given in an environmental damage case, behind the $20 billion fund for the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  The plaintiffs originally sought $27 billion, originating from the claim that in the 1970s and 1980s, Texaco dumped waste-water in the Amazon River Basin that was full of chemicals.  Plaintiffs claim increased local cancer rates, damaged crops, and sickly farm animals due to Texaco’s practice.

Chevron (who bought Texaco in 2001) claims that it cleaned these areas and was released from pollution claims by an agreement with Ecuador when the state took over the company’s operations in Ecuador in 2002.  Chevron claims the “Ecuadorean court’s judgment is illegitimate and unenforceable” and recently won a court order in New York that bars enforcement of the ruling outside Ecuador.   Chevron has no assets in Ecuador, so the ruling may not result in any tangible results for the plaintiffs. However, this is certainly a signal from developing nations (like Ecuador) to major corporations that they wish to hold the same standards as industrialized nations and no longer be perceived as a dumping ground for pollution.

The Ecuadorian case is : Maria Aquinda v. Chevron, 002-2003, Superior Court of Nueva Loja, Lago Agrio, Ecuador.

2 comments

  1. This is a “crude” settlement indeed. This lawsuit was the subject of a very popular documentary called Crude. The film depicts the atrocities that these people live with day in and day out. If we allow our corporations to do business in other countries we should not allow them to hide behind walls of jurisdictional loop holes. This case took years to develop, and had it not been for the watchful eye of a filmmaker, might not have ever been completed. I say it is high time they pay up.

  2. It is indeed definitely time that Chevron (Texaco) must pay for its past actions in Equador during the years that Chevron dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic substances into the Amazon River Basin. This spillage is larger than the 10.8 million gallons spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989 in Alaska, and the 205 million gallons spilled in BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010!

    However, while this lawsuit seeks justice for Equadorians, it must be noted that Chevron has only been fined a reported $8.6 billion. While this may seem like a lot of money, and should hopefully set a precedent that will force companies to follow the same standards in both the developing world as well as the industrialized world, it is hardly comparable to the $20 billion that BP agreed to pay to compensate victims of the gulf oil spill most recently.

    Comparing these two figures (both the amount of toxic materials spilled, and the penalty for doing such) it seems hard, once again, to find justice for the Equadorians.

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