In a historic ruling Chevron Corp. has been ordered to pay $9.5 billion in damages and cleanup costs for oil drilling contamination in a Rhode Island sized section of Ecuador's northern jungle. Handed down by an Ecuadorean judge on Monday the ruling eclipses the $5 billion in damages that Exxon was ordered to pay to the victims of the Valdez spill (that number was later reduce to $507.5 Million by the U.S. Supreme Court).
Many doubt that the plaintiffs, including indigenous groups who's fishing and hunting ground was severely contaminated, will be able to collect any of the reward. Chevron has pledged to appeal the decision calling the ruling "illegitimate and unenforceable." Chevron contends that it could never get a fair trial in Ecuador, even after spending millions on their legal defense. (In fact, their legal team was so impressive it squelched documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger – ordering him to surrender outtakes from his film "Crude" about the Ecuadorian dispute.) In an email exchange Chevron, which earned $19.1 billion last year, threatened the plaintiffs and their lawyers, "We intend to see that the perpetrators of this fraud are held accountable for their misconduct.”
The full amount, $8.6 billion plus a legally mandated 10% reparations fee, falls short $27.3 billion award recommended by the court appointed expert to clean up the pollution. Among the many chemicals found in the soil and water, “experts found petroleum hydrocarbons at levels deemed unsafe by national standards in 44 percent of water samples it tested. It also found cadmium, barium, lead and other heavy metals in the mud of wastewater pits and said 80 percent required cleanup. The team also cited scientific studies that found cancer levels nearly twice Ecuador's norm, with stomach and uterine cancer the most common followed by leukemia.”
Chevron will probably attempt to freeze the ruling using the U.S. courts. Meanwhile, there have been an estimated 1,401 pollution related cancer deaths in the contested area near the Amazons headwaters. On Monday, the same day the decision was handed down, the stock market closed with Chevron stock up 1.3 percent.
Read more stories on Celsias:
Image sourced from: pearsonandassociates.com