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.