Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

New Damages Assessments Due Thursday in Ecuador, but Chevron Refusing to Participate

Judge Has More than 100 Expert Reports as Oil Giant Continues to Obstruct Judicial Process

Amazon Defense Coalition

Amazon Defense Coalition
15 September 2010 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109

New damages assessments from both Chevron and the Amazonian communities are due in Ecuador's court Thursday, but Chevron has indicated it likely will refuse to participate despite complaining previously it never had the opportunity to submit its own damages report.

For more than two years, Chevron has protested a previous $27 billion report submitted by court-appointed expert Richard Cabrera.

"We predict that Chevron's bad faith will be on full display yet again," said Pablo Fajardo, the lead lawyer for the Amazonian communities. "Chevron complained that it did not have an opportunity to produce its own damages assessment. But when given the opportunity, company lawyers accuse the judge of bias against Chevron and launch attacks on the justice system."

Fajardo said the Amazonian communities will submit their own damages assessment to the court on Thursday and that it was prepared by a team of scientific and medical experts. Chevron, on the other hand, recently filed a motion in Ecuador to remove the judge and cited the order asking for the new damages assessments as a basis.

Chevron has filed 104 separate motions before the Ecuador court in the last several weeks as part of a strategy to delay the trial, which has been litigated now for seven years, said Fajardo. Most of the recent motions concern efforts to nullify the report of Cabrera, who in a 4,000-page summary of the evidence found Chevron could be liable for up to $27.3 billion in damages.

The $27.3 billion would only partially clean up the damage given that a significant portion of the harm caused by Chevron to the delicate rainforest ecosystem can never be fully remediated, said Fajardo.

As an example of Chevron's abuse of the judicial process, in just one 30-minute period on August 5 – just three days after the court ordered the parties to submit their own damages assessments – Chevron bombarded the court with 19 separate and largely repetitive petitions, said Fajardo.

"It's extraordinary how Chevron tries to abuse the judicial process while thousands of people, many sick from cancer, cannot afford to pay for the most basic medical treatment," he said. "Tragically, many suffering people will not live long enough to see justice done."

He added: "Chevron's actions demonstrate the company's blatant disregard of the people of Ecuador and prove its double standard in asking that the case be tried here. No litigant, including Chevron, would ever get away with this in the United States."

Chevron is accused in the lawsuit of deliberately dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways when it operated a large oil concession from 1964 to 1990. Independent studies demonstrate cancer rates in the area are higher than in other parts of Ecuador, and several indigenous groups have seen their traditional lifestyles decimated.

After the communities submit their new damages assessment to the court on Thursday, the judge will have in evidence 105 expert reports and more than 64,000 chemical sampling results from dozens of former Chevron well sites, all of which show extensive contamination, said Karen Hinton, a spokesperson for the communities.

Most of the evidence comes from Chevron's own sampling, which alone prove the claims in the lawsuit, said Hinton. In all, the court has voluminous scientific evidence to impose liability and damages on Chevron independent of the Cabrera report, she added.

In the meantime, Chevron's outside counsel at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher have filed a series of discovery actions in U.S. federal courts where they claim there is no evidence of contamination left by Chevron in Ecuador – a blatant misrepresentation, said Hinton.

"The company's own test results in Ecuador show that Chevron's lawyers are mischaracterizing the entire case before U.S. courts," said Hinton. "What's worse is that these misrepresentations have grave human consequences."

The case against Chevron was originally filed by 30,000 rainforest residents in 1993 in U.S. federal court, but was shifted to Ecuador at Chevron's request in 2002. Once the trial evidence in Ecuador pointed to a possible multi-billion dollar judgment against Chevron, the company launched a public relations and lobbying campaign to discredit Ecuador's justice system as well as the lawyers who represent the communities.

As a condition of the removal of the case from U.S. federal court to Ecuador, Chevron promised to subject itself to jurisdiction in Ecuador and to satisfy any judgment imposed by Ecuador's courts.