Ecuador: judge orders Chevron to pay $8.6 billion in pollution case

A judge for the Provincial Court of Sucumbios in Ecuador ordered US oil company Chevron to pay $8.6 billion in damages, finding that Texaco, which was acquired by Chevron in 2001, polluted large areas of the country’s rain forest. Chevron vowed to fight the ruling, calling it “illegitimate and unenforceable” and “the product of fraud.” The plaintiffs’ lawyer said he also plans to appeal, after the court awarded far less than the $113 billion for which the plaintiffs reportedly asked. It is unclear when, if ever, the Chevron will pay the judgment. Chevron has no assets in Ecuador, and it recently won rulings from a panel of arbitrators at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and a judgment in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York temporarily barring the enforcement of any judgment against Chevron.

Earlier this month, Chevron filed a lawsuit against plaintiffs’ lawyers and consultants in the case, claiming that professionals for the plaintiffs were attempting to extort Chevron. In July, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a May ruling by the Southern District of New York ordering filmmaker Joe Berlinger to turn over to Chevron certain outtakes from his 2009 documentary Crude. Chevron claims the outtakes show plaintiffs’ lawyers discussing illegal and unethical tactics, including ghost-writing a court-appointed expert’s report, intimidating a judge and colluding with government officials. Chevron claims to have evidence that the plaintiffs influenced a court-appointed expert who, in 2009, recommended Chevron be found liable for $27 billion. The suit was re-filed in Ecuador in 2003 after being dismissed by the Southern District of New York in 1996. Chevron claims that a 1995 cleanup agreement between Ecuador and Texaco that was completed in 1998 at a cost of $40 million absolves Chevron of all liability. Plaintiffs originally filed suit against Texaco, which operated the oil fields from the 1960’s until the early 1990’s, in the Southern District of New York in 1993.

From Jurist, Feb. 15. Used with permission.

See our last posts on Ecuador and the struggle for the Amazon, and the politics of oil spills.