Ecuadorian coalition hits Chevron with $18bn lawsuit in Canada
IRJ - May 31 - An Ecuadorian group filed a lawsuit in Canada seeking to enforce Chevron’s compliance with an $18 billion clean up fee for dumping toxic water in the rainforest.
The coalition consists of inhabitants of five indigenous groups in Ecuador and approximately 70 farmer communities who want Chevron to pay the judgment imposed by an Ecuador trial court in February 2011, which was later affirmed by Ecuador's court of appeals in January. In total, the long-standing case spans 19 years.
Canadian lawyer Alan Lenczner, who will be representing the Amazon communities, said the lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario is targeting Chevron and various subsidiaries that together hold significant assets in Canada, including the country’s largest offshore drilling project and new investments in oil sands in Alberta. Chevron has virtually no oil assets in Ecuador.
"I am honoured to have been asked by the indigenous people of Ecuador to correct a historic injustice visited upon them by Chevron," said Lenczner, who visited Ecuador and reviewed the extensive trial and appellate records of the case, which exceed 250,000 pages.
"Chevron fought for nine years to move the trial from the United States to Ecuador, and then had a full opportunity for eight years to defend itself in Ecuador," Lenczner added. "This is a legitimate judgment and I believe Canadian courts will recognise it and enforce it as such."
In response to the media reports, Chevron said that the Ecuador judgment is a product of bribery, fraud, is illegitimate and that the company will vigorously defend against any enforcement action.
“Chevron is defending itself against false allegations that it is responsible for alleged environmental and social harms in the Oriente region of Ecuador. Chevron never conducted oil production operations in Ecuador, and its subsidiary Texaco Petroleum (TexPet) fully remediated its share of environmental impacts arising from oil production operations, before leaving Ecuador in 1992,
“After the remediation was certified by all agencies of the Ecuadorian government responsible for oversight, TexPet received a complete release from Ecuador's national, provincial, and municipal governments that extinguished all claims before Chevron acquired TexPet in 2001. All legitimate scientific evidence exonerates Chevron and proves that the remediated sites pose no significant risks to human health or the environment,” the oil major said in a released statement.
The Amazon Defense Coalition says that Chevron is using the "fraud" charge as a ruse to try to block enforcement of the judgment and to distract attention from the overwhelming evidence of its historic misconduct. The Ecuadorian state-backed NGO noted that Chevron’s $18 billion culpability in Ecuador is justifiable when compared to BP's disaster in the Mexican Gulf in 2010. BP estimated the accidental leak of 4.9 million barrels of crude oil would cost the oil major $37.3 billion. By comparison, Chevron intentionally dumped 16 billion gallons of toxic produced water in Ecuador containing far more crude oil that was spilled in the Gulf, as well as heavy metals and other drilling chemicals, and faces less than half of BP's costs to clean it up.