On February 14 a court in Ecuador ordered oil giant Chevron Corp to pay $8.6 billion in environmental damages in a case stemming from Texaco’s operations in Ecuador in the 1970s and 80s (Texaco was later acquired by Chevron.) The 47 plaintiffs, acting on behalf of some 30,000 farmers and members of indigenous Amazon tribes, had asked for $27 billion in damages.
Chevron’s response makes it clear this is not the last court decision: “The Ecuadorian court’s judgment is illegitimate and unenforceable. It is the product of fraud and is contrary to the legitimate scientific evidence. Chevron will appeal this decision in Ecuador and intends to see that justice prevails.”
The end of the story is probably still years in the future. The oil giant has claimed the case is a racketeering scheme where Chevron is the victim. Just last week Chevron won a restraining order against the plaintiffs in the Ecuador case, which could prevent them from enforcing a judgment and collecting damages in the U.S.. Chevron has no assets in Ecuador.
Also last week an international tribunal in The Hague said that Ecuador could not enforce any judgment against Chevron in the 18-year-old case, ordering the Ecuadorian government “to take all measures at its disposal to suspend or cause to be suspended the enforcement or recognition within and without Ecuador of any judgment.”
Texaco pumped oil in Ecuador from 1972 to 1990. The plaintiffs claim that unsafe drilling practices and insufficient cleanup has devastated the environment, agriculture and the health of indigenous people in the area. Some of the claims are painfully documented in this video:
Photo: Still from video by Amazon Watch, via YouTube