An Ecuadorian court recently demanded Chevron to pay $19 billion in environmental damages. This includes $900 million for the Amazon Defense Front—a coalition of plaintiffs in this decade-long legal battle—and an additional $8.6 billion because Chevron refused to apologize. Ouch!
The Amazon’s Chernobyl
Instead of paying up, Chevron is putting up its usual dirty fight. Its lawyers plan to appeal, and called the region’s legal system “illegitimate” and the reparations “unenforceable in any court that observes the rule of law.”
Those are strong words from a company that, between 1964 and 1990, had such poor waste management practices that 1,400 locals died. Needless to say, it’s not called “the Amazon’s Chernobyl” for nothing.
During those years, Chevron dumped billions of gallons of waste oil and water into open pits, thereby polluting fishing grounds, devastating crops, killing farm animals, and raising the rate of cancer among residents. Texaco (later bought by California-based Chevron) acknowledged the damage enough to promise $40 million to clean up after themselves, but they don’t seem happy about the updated number, $19 billion.
Fraud and Misconduct
“Rather than accept responsibility, Chevron has launched a campaign of warfare against the Ecuadorean courts and the impoverished victims of its unfortunate practices,” said Pablo Fajardo, now celebrated lawyer and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2008 for his dedication to the case.
Chevron boasted $19 billion in earnings in 2010 and is predictably reluctant to let a cent of it go. In 2011, they claimed to have undercover investigators with evidence of improper association between the judges and plaintiffs. “We intend to see that the perpetrators of this fraud are held accountable for their misconduct,” they said in February 2011.
The plaintiffs—and activists worldwide—hope the same justice is meted out to Big Oil, and the justice better come soon.