$9 Billion Award, But Ecuador Must Look Elsewhere for Hope of Payment

amazon ecuador chevron contamination photo

Image: identitytheory.com

Yesterday brought historic news—Chevron was fined nearly $9 billion, one of the largest awards for environmental damage ever, for polluting the Ecuadorean Amazon with more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater. But the New York Times ran an interesting story today about how the case is not going to be a simple matter of paying that money out and being done with it. Not that it is ever that simple. But this case is extra complicated. It's been dragged out for nearly 20 years, the company no longer operates in Ecuador, various parties have gotten involved from across the globe, and questions arise over whether Chevron will actually pay the money. (It says it will not.)

If Chevron doesn't also publicly apologize within 15 days, Time reports, the judge said the fine would be doubled.

The Times explains more about the international controversy:

Chevron has much larger operations elsewhere in Latin America, and the plaintiffs' strategy of pursuing the company across the region could open a contentious new phase in the case -- one that would test Ecuador's political ties with its neighbors and involve some of Washington's most prominent lobbyists and lawyers.

Advisers to the plaintiffs said Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela would be obvious candidates to pursue Chevron assets, but they acknowledged it would not be easy. Venezuela, for instance, is a close Ecuadorean ally and its president, Hugo Chávez, is a frequent critic of the United States. But Chevron has extensive operations in Venezuela and enjoys warmer ties with Mr. Chávez's government than just about any other American company.

For now, the Times reports, the case will proceed in courts in Ecuador, where both sides are planning to appeal—Chevron appealing the ruling, the other side the amount of the award, which they say is inadequate for the extent of the damage caused to people's health and to the environment.

Eventually, the final appeal will go to a national appeals court, at which point the battle may go overseas. The Times wrote, "Advisers to the villagers and forest tribes said they hoped to extract Chevron money from many countries until they reach the final judgment total."

More on Chevron and Ecuador
After Almost 20 Years of Legal Battles, Chevron Fined $8 Billion for Amazon Pollution
New York Times Explores Ecuador's Battle Against Chevron
A Spoof Video Fires Back at Chevron's Greenwashing
The Yes Men Are At it Again: Chevron "Agrees" to Clean Up Its Mess

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