Chevron faces $8bn fine
Ecuadorian judge rules oil company is responsible for 'Amazon Chernobyl'.
After an arduous 18 year law suit, Chevron (formerly Texaco) have finally been ruled responsible for widespread destruction in the Amazon Basin. However the company faces paying fines amounting to only one third of the original claim Those effected believe Chevron should be held responsible for $27.3bn in damages from illness, deaths, and economic loss due to the chemical-laden waste water dumped by Texaco's operations from 1972 to 1990 in what they describe as the 'Amazon Chernobyl'.
Pablo Fajardo, the plaintiffs' lawyer, told the Associated Press that the judgement, at the provincial court of justice of Sucumbíos in Lago Agrio, was "a great step that we have made towards the crystallisation of justice", but he added that the fine was too small.
However Chevron furiously contest the matter and the company is likely to appeal. A spokes person for the oil giant said the judgement was "illegitimate and unenforceable", adding: "It is the product of fraud and is contrary to the legitimate scientific evidence.” On the possibility of appealing, Pablo Fajardo, the plaintiffs' lawyer said: "We believe the evidence before the court deserves international respect and the plaintiffs will take whatever actions are appropriate consistent with the law to press the claims to a final conclusion."
The case dates back to the 1970's when Texaco partnered with government owned PetroEcuador to drill oil wells in the remote region of the Ecuadorian Amazon. On ending operations in the 1990's Texaco spent $40m on cleaning up sites. Chevrons fundamental argument is that this legally released the company from further claims or liabilities. The opposition claim that Texaco had failed to address faulty drilling practices, and for 28 years made deliberate cost-cutting operational decisions that has resulted in an environmental catastrophe.
A report by Sweden's Umeå International School of Public Health has shown that more than 30bn gallons of toxic wastes and crude oil had been released into the land and waterways of the Amazon Basin. Making it one of the most devastating environmental incidents to date when compared to the 10.8m gallons spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989 in Alaska, or the 205m gallons spilt in BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Several campaign groups including 'Chevron Toxico' protest that “Texaco carved out 350 oil wells, and upon leaving the country in 1992, left behind some 1,000 open toxic waste pits. Many of these pits leak into the water table or overflow in heavy rains, polluting rivers and streams that 30,000 people depend on for drinking, cooking, bathing and fishing (...). By handling its toxic waste in Ecuador in ways that were illegal in its home country, Texaco saved an estimated $3 per barrel of oil produced. At the height of Texaco's operations, the company was dumping an estimated 4 million gallons of formation waters per day.”
For more information see: chevrontoxico.com and amazonwatch.org