February 15th, 2011 by Zachary Shahan
More updates on this story: Updates on Chevron-Ecuador Controversy (posting on February 17, 7:00am EST)
If you’re just tuning in, Chevron and a previously independent company it now owns (Texaco, which it bought in 2001) have been using and abusing Ecuador for about half a century. They dumped billions upon billions of of gallons of toxic waste into Ecuador’s Amazon, causing cancer and death to a number of Ecuadorians. Yet, the companies would not admit this for decades,.. well, they have never admitted it, despite strong scientific evidence. In a recent trial, Chevron claimed that it hadn’t harmed a single soul and the company has even tried turning the tables and suing the totally abused local people of Ecuador (see link above).
However, justice has now been served (sort of). An Ecuadorian court has found, after this 18-year struggle to get Chevron to compensate the country for its crimes, that the Indigenous and rural Ecuadoreans suing Chevron were right.
“In a historic ruling, the court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador found Chevron guilty and ordered the company to pay $8 billion to clean up its oily mess,” Rainforest Action Network (RAN) reports. “Chevron of course immediately fired off a statement claiming that the judgment was fraudulent and the company would appeal the decision.”
Yes, they want to carry this case on even further.
“Enough is enough. Some 30,000 Ecuadoreans remain at risk while Chevron tries every legal maneuver and dirty trick it can find,” RAN writes.
“Write to CEO John Watson and tell him it’s time for Chevron to take responsibility for its oil pollution in the Ecuadorean Amazon.” You can easily do so on RAN’s site.
The Court Victory in Ecuador
The Ecuadorian court found Chevron “guilty of polluting the Amazon with over 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste,” Mike Gaworecki, an online campaigner for RAN and Change Chevron, wrote to me yesterday. “Chevron has been ordered to pay $8 billion to clean up its oil contamination and restore human rights for the 30,000 affected peoples. This is an unprecedented moment for corporate accountability.”
Despite a massive PR and legal campaign, Chevron couldn’t buy its way past the overwhelming evidence that it has considerably harmed the people of Ecuador.
This is one of the biggest judgments against an oil company in history.
Full Statement from Amazon Watch and RAN
Amazon Watch and RAN are two of the organizations that have worked the hardest on this issue. Here’s their full joint statement on the recent 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 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.
“Today’s case is historic and unprecedented. It is the first time Indigenous people have sued a multinational corporation in the country where the crime was committed and won.
“Today’s historic ruling against Chevron is a testament to the strength of the Ecuadorian people who have spent 18 years bringing Chevron to justice while suffering the effects of the company’s extensive oil contamination.”
Ongoing Struggles to Get Chevron to Compensate Ecuadorians
The original compensation request was for $27 billion and even though Chevron got this cut down in the final ruling, it doesn’t want to acknowledge the legitimacy of the ruling and pay up. Chevron is calling the case “illegitimate” and “unenforceable in any court that observes the rule of law.”
“If you look at the Exxon Valdez case, that took 20 years to settle,” said Allen Good, oil analyst at Morningstar in Chicago. “I think there were expectations that the initial judgments would go against Chevron and I think the case is going to play out over a very long time.”
“This ruling is an intermediate step. The appeals could go on for many years,” said John van Schaik, oil analyst at Medley Global Advisors in New York.
“But the fact that the Lago Agrio court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs sends a signal to oil companies that, more than ever, they need to be good corporate citizens…. The ruling shows that times have changed, and companies need to take environmental concerns seriously.”
Tell that to Chevron, which doesn’t seem to have gotten the point at all!
Don’t Let Chevron Waste Any More Time
In an article on the news, Mike expresses the frustration all of us are feeling as Chevron continues to try to finagle its way out of its legal responsibility:
Enough is enough. The plaintiffs have withstood the impacts of Chevron’s oil pollution on their health and the local environment at the same time that they had to contend with Chevron’s bullying and abusive legal tactics. For nearly two decades, they’ve been living with Chevron’s attempts to deny them basic human rights and a clean and healthy environment. It’s time for Chevron to take responsibility for its oily mess.
Over 1,400 Ecuadorians have reportedly died from Chevron’s abuse and negligence. And, unfortunately, another 30,000 are now at risk. This is not an issue anyone should sit on the fence about. Let your voice be heard via RAN.
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