Tuesday, 22 March 2011 14:20

Chevron ordered to pay $8-billion for dumping oil in the Amazon

The oil giant Chevron has been ordered to pay over US$8-billion in damages for polluting in Ecuador between 1964 and 1990. The award, which was granted on 14 February 2011, is one of the largest environmental damages claims ever given, but Chevron feels the claim is illegitimate.

“The Ecuadorian court’s judgement is illegitimate and unenforceable,” said Chevron in a statement referring to Judge Nicolas Zambrano’s decision. “It is a product of fraud and is contrary to the legitimate scientific evidence.”

The Ecuadorian Amazon communities have been involved in an ongoing legal battle with oil giants for over 17 years. The Ecuadorians originally filed a US$27-billion claim in 1993, alleging that Texaco (which was later acquired by Chevron) dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon. According to the 188-page ruling, Chevron is responsible for damages of about US$8.6-billion (and perhaps double that amount if Chevron fails to publicly apologise for its actions within 15 days).

A landmark decision
David M. Uhlmann, an expert in environmental law at the University of Michigan, said the award against Chevron “is one of the largest judgements ever imposed for environmental contamination in any court”.

“It falls well short of the US$20-billion that BP has agreed to pay to compensate victims of the gulf oil spill, but it is a landmark decision nonetheless. Whether any portion of the claims will be paid by Chevron is less clear.”

The decision has opened a new stage of legal battles as both sides have said they would appeal against the ruling. Chevron has said that earlier rulings by international courts and the US will bar enforcement of Judge Zambrano’s decision.The new appeals will set the stage for months and potentially years of more legal wrangling in a case that is closely watched. According to legal experts, the size of the award and the attention the case is getting will likely encourage similar law suits in the future.

Sources: www.nytimes.com

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