A court in Ecuador confirmed on appeal a sentence issued in February 2011, which orders the U.S. oil company Chevron to pay US$ 18 billion to villagers for environmental damages in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
The Court of Justice of Sucumbíos, Province of Ecuador, resolved to ratify in its entirely the decision of February 14, 2011, which had been appealed by Chevron (formerly Texaco), for the charge of polluting the environment and damaging the health of Amazonian villagers.
The lawsuit was initiated in 1993 by 30,000 indigenous people and peasants asking Chevron to assume its responsibility for the remediation of damage caused during its operations in the Amazon forest between 1964 and 1990. The court’s ruling orders Chevron to pay US$9 billion and to issue a formal apology recognizing its conduct as “inappropriate”. Failure to do so would result in doubling of the amount.
The Ecuadorian indigenous communities initially started the trial in U.S. courts against Texaco, which in 2001 was bought by Chevron. The lawsuit charges the company of pouring toxic waste into lands and water resources while operating oil fields in the country causing severe damage to the environment and the villagers’ health. A decade later, the case was transferred to Ecuador.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said yesterday that in his opinion, the courts have determined that the environmental damage attributed to the oil company is evident. "I think justice has been done, the damage done by Chevron in the Amazon is undeniable," said Correa, who compared the trial as a "David versus Goliath struggle".
Chevron has called the ruling "illegitimate" and has filed claims of alleged "fraud" in the Court’s decision. The company also argued that in 1990 it had reached an agreement with the Government of Ecuador that exonerated the company of future lawsuits for environmental damage, a situation which, according to the plaintiffs, does not affect the private lawsuit. As a result of the further claim filed by Chevron, the company is now expected to pay US$ 18 billion.
Chevron is also facing environmental damage claims for oil spills in Brazil.