Monday, February 14, 2011

197. Chevron Fined $8 Billions for Amazon Pollution by Ecuador Court

By BBC, February 14, 2011
A court in Ecuador has fined US oil giant Chevron a reported $8bn (£5bn) for polluting a large part of the country's Amazon region.
The oil firm Texaco, which merged with Chevron in 2001, was accused of dumping billions of gallons of toxic materials into unlined pits and Amazon rivers.
Campaigners say crops were damaged and farm animals killed, and that local cancer rates increased.
Condemning the ruling as fraudulent, Chevron said it would appeal.
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of 30,000 Ecuadoreans, in a case which dragged on for nearly two decades.
The plaintiffs said the company's activities had destroyed large areas of rainforest and also led to an increased risk of cancer among the local population.
The trial began in 2003 after almost a decade of legal battles in the US. At that time, a US appeals court ruled that the case should be heard in Ecuador.
Environmentalists hope the case will set a precedent, forcing companies operating in developing countries to comply with the same anti-pollution standards as in the industrialised world.
'Product of fraud'
Ecuadorean Indian groups said Texaco - which merged with Chevron in 2001 - dumped more than 18 billion gallons (68 billion litres) of toxic materials into the unlined pits and rivers between 1972 and 1992.
Protesters said the company had destroyed their livelihood. Crops were damaged, farm animals killed and cancer increased among the local population, they said.
BBC map
Pablo Fajardo, lawyer for the plaintiffs, described the court ruling as "a great step that we have made toward the crystallisation of justice".
Speaking by phone to the Associated Press, he added that the damages award was too low and he was also considering an appeal.
Having just received the 187-page ruling, he said he needed time to digest it before commenting further.
Chevron statement said the firm would appeal, and called the ruling "illegitimate and unenforceable".
The corporation has long contended that the court-appointed expert in the case was unduly influenced by the plaintiffs.
Its statement described the ruling as "the product of fraud (and) contrary to the legitimate scientific evidence".
Asked by BBC News if the fine imposed did indeed amount to $8bn, Chevron said it was still not clear. The corporation was, it said, still "trying to decipher" the ruling.
The Ecuadorean court was not immediately available for comment.

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