Ecuador Court Orders Chevron to Pay Up

Kids play by oil pipelines in Lago Agrio.<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/rainforestactionnetwork/5284396292/">Rain Forest Action Network</a>/Flickr

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


A small court in the town of Lago Agrio, Ecuador, has ordered Chevron to pay plaintiffs from indigenous communities and their defense $9 billion for environmental damages. A handful of tribes, represented by attorney Steven Donzinger,  accused Texaco—now Chevron—of deliberately dumping 16 billion gallons of toxic oil-production sludge into Amazon rivers and streams, abandoning 900 unlined pits of heavy metals dumped by the company; and failing to fix oil-pipeline leaks throughout the region. The judge also demanded Chevron apologize publicly, lest the fine be doubled.

But Chevron has been preparing for this outcome for almost as long as the complex battle has been raging. Chevron is trying to take the issue to the Hague’s international arbitration court—a legal mediation process that the indigenous plaintiffs would be conveniently left out of, as only countries are party to the relevant international Bilateral Investment Treaty [PDF]. There’s also the ongoing battle over allegations of plaintiff extortion.

But the plaintiffs are ready to fight back: They have new funding from Burford Capital, as well as an addition to their legal team, DC law firm Patton Boggs, which filed a lawsuit against the oil giant for its underhanded interference in the legal proceedings and efforts to drain the group of financial resources.

When a Chevron spokesperson said, “We will fight this until Hell freezes over and then we’ll fight it out on the ice,” Amazon Defense Coaltion‘s Karon Hinton responded, “We have our skates on.” 

The next step comes on Thursday, when both parties will file the first of three possible appeals in the Ecuadorian courts. Chevron, of course, will appeal the most recent decision, while the plaintiffs will argue for higher damages to be awarded. The hope, said Hinton, is to repay some of the families for loss of life, mostly from the high cancer rates that have been linked to the pollution. “People have lost their loved ones, their family members. An Ecuadorian life is just as valuable as an American one,” she said. 

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate