Ecuador fines Chevron US$8.6B for environmental damages
A provincial court in Ecuador has fined U.S. oil multinational Chevron US$8.646 billion for environmental and social damages, local newspaper El Universo reported.
The Provincial Court of Justice ruled that 7.39 million hectares of Amazonian land were contaminated by the multinational, which included farmland and water supply, the story reported.
The sentence ordered Chevron to pay US$600 million to clean underground water, US$5.4 billion for soil remediation, US$1.4 billion for irreparable health damages, US$150 million for contaminated water and US$100 million for cultural damages
The court also ruled the company pay US$800 million towards public health and cancer cases in particular, as well as an ongoing US$200 million payment towards recuperating fauna and flora for 20 years.
The alleged contamination was a result of the actions of Texaco, which merged with Chevron in 2001.
Judge Nicolás Zambrano said scientific analysis and witness testimonies led to the decision, while calling on Chevron to make a public apology, according to newspaper El Comercio.
“Appreciating the various expert reports according to the rules of sound criticism, and following the unanimous perception of the people interviewed throughout the trial during judicial inspections, leads to the conviction that there are several types of environmental damages, and others (damages) that are a direct consequence of these,” he was quoted as saying.
“It (an apology) will be considered as a symbolic measure of moral reparation.”
El Universo reported that Chevron will appeal the case, labeling the decision as ‘unlawful and unenforceable’, a ‘product of fraud’ and ‘contrary to scientific evidence’.
“Both the courts in the United States and international tribunals have taken steps to prevent the application of the sentence given by the Ecuadorian court,” the multinational was quoted as saying.
On Feb. 1 Chevron issued a press release stating it had filed a civil lawsuit against lawyers and consultants behind the case, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
“Chevron's suit alleges that the named defendants, and certain non-party co-conspirators, have used the Ecuador lawsuit to threaten Chevron, mislead U.S. government officials, and harass and intimidate Chevron employees, all in order to extort a financial settlement from the company,” the media statement said.
“Recent U.S. court proceedings initiated by Chevron have produced overwhelming evidence of fraud, collusion, corruption, and other misconduct on the part of those pressing the Lago Agrio plaintiffs' case.”
The Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network said in a statement that the court’s decision was ‘historic and unprecedented’.
“Today's ruling in Ecuador against Chevron proves overwhelmingly that the oil giant is responsible for billions of gallons of highly toxic waste sludge deliberately dumped into local streams and rivers, which thousands depend on for drinking, bathing, and fishing,” the statement said.
“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.”