The people of Ecuador are rising up to refound their country as a pluri-national homeland for all. This inspiring movement, with Ecuador's indigenous peoples at its heart, is part of the revolution spreading across the Americas, laying the groundwork for a new, fairer, world. Ecuador Rising aims to bring news and analysis of events unfolding in Ecuador to english speakers.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Ecuador’s President Correa to help indigenous communities in Chevron pollution litigation

The Ecuador Government is to provide support for indigenous communities in their litigation against Chevron over pollution of the nation’s rainforest in the country’s Oriente region.

Author: Dorothy Kosich
Posted: Friday , 23 Mar 2007


Ecuador's new leftist President Rafael Correa said that his government would help 30,000 Amazon Indians and settlers sue Chevron Oil Company for $6 billion for allegedly dumping 18 billion gallons of polluted water into their communities.

The plaintiffs, who are residents of the Oriente region, claim that during 28 years of Texaco then Chevron operations in Ecuador's rainforest, more than 30 times the amount of pure crude spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster wound up on the rainforest floor.

In a statement Tuesday, President Correa said his government supports the affected communities and would help gather evidence against Chevron.

A November 2006 report by the Lago Agrio Legal Team of the Amazon Defense Coalition claims Chevron's behavior "has created a public health catastrophe that causes gave thousand of indigenous people and others whose survival depends on the natural habitat of the Amazon."

"Chevron's policies in Ecuador have unnecessarily exposed the company to a potential multi-billion dollar civil judgment, exposed its employees to a criminal investigation in Ecuador, embroiled the company in a costly litigation with a foreign nation that is a friend of the United States, and risk constricting new investment opportunities in the United States and elsewhere," according to the report.

Chevron no longer operates in Ecuador, South America's fifth-largest oil producer with an output of around 530,000 barrels of oil per day, according to Al Jazeera.

The problem reportedly occurred when Texaco (now owned by Chevron) operated an oil concession in Ecuador's rainforest from 1964 to 1992. The plaintiffs claim that during that time, Texaco dumped "18 billion gallons of toxic waste directly upon the delicate floor of the rainforest to save on production costs." The legal team claims that Chevron "used a series of misrepresentations to obtain a ‘release' from Ecuador's government to avoid spending the estimated $6.1 billion that a legitimate environmental clean-up would cost."

Following a $40 million remediation program, Chevron contends that the government of Ecuador and its environmental agencies "unconditionally released the company from all liabilities and obligations related to the oil operations." The company claims the plaintiffs' allegations "have not been supported with any credible, substantiated scientific evidence."

The lawsuit spent a decade in U.S. Courts. After a U.S. Appeals Court ruled the litigation did not fall under U.S. jurisdiction, the plaintiffs turned to the Ecuadorian courts. The civil trial began in Ecuador in October 2003, and is still being litigated. Plaintiffs' lawyers said a ruling could come as early as the second half of this year.

During his presidential campaign, Correa, a U.S.-educated economist, promised to renegotiate foreign oil contracts in favor of the state. Twelve multi-national oil companies operate in Ecuador, pumping about 40% of the average production of 530,000 barrels per day. This month, Correa asked the developed nation to help strop the impact of energy exploitation on the Amazon region.

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