Chevron Guilty! Oil Company Fined Billions in Ecuadorian Lawsuit

News has just started trickling in that a judge in Ecuador has found Chevron guilty in an 18-year lawsuit. Reuters reports:

A court in Ecuador's Amazon jungle has ordered Chevron to pay $8 billion in a closely-watched environmental lawsuit, but the U.S. oil company rejected the ruling as "illegitimate".

The highly controversial case has triggered related legal action in U.S. courts and international arbitration and is being monitored by the oil industry for precedents that could lead to other large claims.

If you're unfamiliar with the lawsuit, here's some background from Rainforest Action Network:

Between 1964 and 1990, Texaco (which Chevron acquired in 2001) drilled for oil in a remote northern region of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest.  Using obsolete technology and substandard environmental controls, the company deliberately dumped 18.5 billion gallons of highly toxic waste sludge into the streams and rivers that local people depend on for drinking, bathing, and fishing. The company dug over 900 open-air, unlined waste pits that continue to seep toxins into the ground. The sludge contains some of the most dangerous chemicals known — including benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) — in lethal concentrations. Rupturing oil pipelines and gas flaring was also a regular occurrence.

What’s worse, the dumping was done intentionally to cut corners and save an estimated $3 per barrel.

There will be appeals of course from Chevron on this decision and likely lots more dirty tactics to stall having any obligation to right this mess. And while today's ruling may still be a long way from justice, it's clearly an important step.

AlterNet / By Tara Lohan

Posted at February 14, 2011, 10:10am

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