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NEWS: Case against Chevron polluting Ecuador’s water now in Ontario court

The Toronto Star reports, “A group of 30,000 Ecuadorans who won an $18.3 (U.S.) billion judgment against the oil giant Chevron in Ecuador for polluting the rainforest are asking Ontario’s courts to help them collect. …The Ontario claim, filed Wednesday, …names Chevron Corp., Chevron Canada Ltd. and Chevron Canada Finance Ltd. …(Having won the judgement after an 18-year legal battle), the problem for his clients, says (the Ecuadorians’ Canadian lawyer Alan) Lenczner, is that Chevron has few assets remaining in Ecuador. But it has substantial assets in Canada – including stakes in the Athabaska oil sands, oil fields off Newfoundland, and retail outlets. That, he said, allows his clients to file claims in Canadian courts to have the Ecuadoran court judgment enforced.”

“The roots of the case go back to the early 1990s, when Texaco – which was later taken over by Chevron – was pumping oil from the Ecuadoran rainforest in partnership with Ecuador’s state oil company. Texaco was the operator. Left behind, says Lenczner, were more than 900 pits filled with a mixture of water, oil and mud, pumped to the surface as a byproduct of the operation. The pits are unlined, Lenczner says, meaning chemicals from the oil can seep into groundwater. They also overflow into surface streams. …The result, the plaintiffs claim, has been widespread damage both to the environment and to the health of residents.”

“The legal battle began in 1993, when a group of Ecuadorans filed an action in New York seeking compensation on behalf of the residents in 1,500-square-mile area for actions taken between 1972 and 1990. Texaco said the case should be heard in Ecuador, and eventually won its way. A trial in Ecuador began in 2003, and wrapped up in 2011 with the massive judgment against Chevron. It was upheld on appeal last January. …Canada, Lenzcner said, is ‘robust’ in enforcing judgments of foreign courts. …Lenczner expects a fight as the case makes its way through Canadian courts. His statement of claim quotes a Chevron official saying: ‘We’re going to fight this until Hell freezes over, and then fight it out on the ice.'”

As we noted in a February 2011 campaign blog, The Guardian UK has reported that, “According to a report by Sweden’s Umeå International School of Public Health more than 30 billion gallons of toxic wastes and crude oil had been discharged into the land and waterways of Ecuador’s Amazon basin…” The Associated Press reported at the time of the ruling, “A local indigenous leader, Guillermo Grefa of the Kichwa people, was quoted by the plaintiffs as saying ‘They can now dream of drinking clean water that doesn’t have petroleum residues like what we’ve had to drink up until now.’” Reuters noted then, “…According to the ruling, …$600 million (is to go toward restoring) water supplies.”

The Toronto Star article can be read at http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1203135–ecuadorans-seek-18-2-billion-damage-judgment-against-chevron-in-ontario-courts. The February 2011 campaign blog is at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=5553.