Monday, February 14, 2011

Almost-justice for Ecuador: Landmark ruling on oil pollution in the Amazon

Unexpectedly, the Lago Agria Court in Ecuador has ruled against oil corporation Chevron (formerly Texaco) for 30 years worth of indiscriminate oil pollution in Ecuador's Amazon. I say "unexpectedly" because this case is just two years shy of it's twentieth birthday. I've written a few pieces on this before and strongly believe this, and other such cases, should be included in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

The lawsuit began in 1993 in New York. It has endured loopholes and all sorts of arbitration and appeals and every single crooked legalese trick that can fit up an oil corporation's sleeve. Turns out you can fit almost twenty years of tricks up there.

Though the Ecuadorians were attempting to secure 27 billion dollars, the court ruled for 8.6 billion. Chevron has, of course, appealed the decision. According to Reuters, Chevron has 15 days to publicly apologize for the atrocity at which point the fine will double to 17.2 billion dollars.

However, the case is almost-justice because of yet another trick still up Chevron's sleeve, as international arbitrators have stepped in to suspend any enforcement of the ruling.



This photo is from the Chevron in Ecuador website. I just discovered it but will definitely be an information source on this issue.

Despite overwhelming scientific evidence on pollution, negative effects on the environment and forest, contamination of food and water supplies, and crude oil's carcinogenic properties, Chevron has denied that contamination from oil is the source of the aboriginal peoples of Ecuador's woes. Apparently, adding crude waste to water means the water is still perfectly drinkable. Of course oil doesn't hurt anybody. I'll remind everyone that BP and the White House are saying that seafood from the Gulf is okay to consume. Chevron on the other hand, said that the ruling is "...contrary to the legitimate scientific evidence"."

Unbelievable. Isn't it?

Ecuadorians have not only gone through the horrifying effects of widespread oil contamination, but also several insulting rulings in the past few years. One of which involved a documentary film maker turning over hundreds of hours of footage to the defendant, Chevron.

The oil industry is arguably the most difficult to hold to account. With any sliver of luck, this ruling, and enforcement of the ruling, will lead to other lawsuits in places such as Nigeria, and the "untouchable" oil corps realizing that they are entirely responsible for the mess they make and the lives they destroy.

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