Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

Undisputed Facts Show Chevron Guilty of Environmental Crimes in Ecuador Rainforest

Amazon Defense Coalition

Amazon Defense Coalition
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109

Quito, Ecuador – The Ecuadorians, who recently won an $18 billion judgment against Chevron for massive oil contamination in the Ecuador rainforest, said today undisputed facts clearly show the company guilty of environmental crimes that resulted in the destruction of once pristine land and water and direct harm to the health of the area's 30,000 residents.

Karen Hinton, the U.S. spokesperson for the Ecuadorians, said, "Chevron wants to make this case about anything other than the undisputed facts that it intentionally dumped 18 billion gallons of hazardous water into the rainforest and built over 900 unlined pits to permanently store pure crude and production water – a toxic brew that continues to leech into the soil and water today.

"An appellate court of three judges reviewed the lower court's findings and upheld the judgment in its entirety, finding Chevron guilty of environmental crimes. It is now on appeal to Ecuador's national court. Meanwhile, we have a legitimate judgment we will enforce. Those are the facts."

When evidence began pouring in against Chevron, the company began accusing the Ecuadorians and the courts of fraud, even though Chevron fought in U.S. court to have the trial litigated in Ecuador citing the fairness of the country's court system. See this report that provides expert opinion on Ecuador's court system.

Long before Chevron's charges surfaced, the Ecuadorians had accused the company of numerous instances of judicial misconduct: manipulating contamination samples by undercounting hydrocarbons, using inappropriate testing methods, testing far away and uphill from the well sites for toxins, and delaying the trial with abusive testing practices.

The Ecuador courts noted these abuses and also found that Chevron oversaw a fraudulent remediation in 1995 that encouraged residents to build homes on top of and near oil pits that they thought had been cleaned by the company. Testing during the trial found that soil and water samples from the so-called "remediated" pits were just as toxic as samples from pits that had not been cleaned.

"Chevron knowingly put these people in greater danger to their health and lives by not confessing the company had simply thrown dirt over the pits instead of cleaning them properly, as required by the agreement," said Hinton.

The three appellate court judges also were clearly outraged at the oil giant's abuse of the judicial process during the trial. They noted Chevron had "staged incidents that encumbered the process of the trial" and that it dumped 20,000 pages of largely redundant evidence on the appellate court to delay consideration of the case. The plaintiffs have long accused Chevron of trying to undermine the trial by filing frivolous motions and trying to intimidate judges.

Among the key findings by the panel, which reviewed the voluminous trial record of 220,000 pages for 11 months:

In response to Chevron's complaints that it was "denied justice" in Ecuador, the appellate court noted on the second page of its decision that the only filings from the oil giant that were denied were those that were "abusive" and "clearly designed to obstruct the administration of justice." For example, Chevron once filed 18 similar motions in the trial court in a 30-minute period, and tried to have the judge removed when he did not rule on them fast enough.

The court found that Chevron's requests for proof that it needed to defend itself – including the tedious task of conducting 36 judicial inspections of the company's former well sites – were "processed without exception." It found that "hundreds of thousands of documents submitted by Chevron bloated the trial record with everything it considered relevant."

Referencing Article 283 of Ecuador's civil code, and citing a long list of examples of Chevron's malfeasance during the trial, the appellate panel upheld a decision that Chevron should pay the costs of the plaintiffs due to the "flagrant bad faith it exhibited in the case."