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NEWS: Chevron fined for contamination of water in Ecuador

The Guardian UK reports that, “An Ecuadorian judge has ruled that Chevron was responsible for widespread contamination of the country’s Amazon basin and fined the company $8 billion. …The epic and bitterly fought lawsuit over the ‘Amazon Chernobyl’ has been going on for 18 years. It was brought on behalf of 30,000 people whose health and environment were allegedly damaged by chemical-laden waste water dumped by Texaco’s operations from 1972 to 1990. Chevron bought Texaco in 2001.”

“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 – or ‘Oriente’. This compares to the 10.8 million gallons spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989 in Alaska or 205 million gallons spilt in BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster. The report claims there are at least two big oil spills per week in the area.”

An Associated Press report in the Toronto Star highlights that, “A local indigenous leader, Guillermo Grefa of the Kichwa people, was quoted by the plaintiffs as saying ‘we can now tell our neighbours and those affected that justice exists. They can now dream of drinking clean water that doesn’t have petroleum residues like what we’ve had to drink up until now.'”

But Reuters adds that, “Indigenous farmers said the award would not cover cleanup costs and that they plan to press for more money at a provincial court in the heart of the jungle later this week. …(They said) ‘Our families have died, and our rivers have deteriorated.’ …According to the ruling, …$600 million (is to go toward restoring) water supplies. …Nicolas Zambrano, a judge at the court in the jungle town of Lago Agrio, also said in his ruling that Chevron must apologize within 15 days for the contamination from oil wells dug decades ago, or face a doubling of the damages figure.”

The Associated Press reports that, “At Chevron’s request, the U.S. judge on Tuesday blocked any judgment for at least 28 days. The judge said he had concluded that lawyers representing the 30,000 plaintiffs were planning a global disruption of the oil giant’s business to enforce any monetary award.” And now, the Wall Street Journal reports that, “The oil giant turned the litigation upside-down by filing suit against the plaintiffs. The suit, filed in Manhattan federal court, accuses the plaintiffs, their lawyers and other members of their legal team of conspiring to manufacture evidence, intimidate Ecuadorian court officials and withhold evidence from U.S. courts.”

More on Democracy Now! at http://www.democracynow.org/seo/2011/2/15/ecuadoran_court_orders_chevron_to_pay.

It might also be noted that in November 2010, “A historic case was filed by an international coalition of defenders of nature’s rights at the Constitutional court of Ecuador against BP and its crimes against nature. Ecuador recognises the rights of nature in its current constitution adopted in 2008. The rights of nature are universal. This provides the fundamental basis for this legal case.” More on that at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=5512.