Oil giant Chevron this week told New York federal judge Lewis A. Kaplan that it was dropping its claim that the $19 billion USD judgment handed down by Ecuadorian courts over the company’s Amazon contamination record was “objectively baseless” and a “sham.”
Ecuadorian environmental NGO the Amazon Defense Coalition claims Chevron’s move is “in effect conceding” that there has been widespread contamination of water and land within the Amazon region.
This will also most likely have negative consequences for Chevron’s upcoming fraud lawsuit, scheduled for a New York court in October of this year, according to Craig Smyser, who is representing the Ecuadorians in that action.
Earlier this week, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans denied Chevron’s attempts to shield one of its experts from discovery obligations.
“The change reflects an adjustment to Chevron’s trial strategy to avoid having the jury hear and see evidence of its contamination of the rainforest and use of substandard drilling practices,” Smyser said.
In February 2011, an Ecuadorian court awarded indigenous groups in the Ecuadorian Amazon region $19 billion USD to cover environmental and health damages due to land and water contamination by US-based oil company Texaco between 1964 and 1990.
Chevron inherited the legal complaint when it purchased Texaco in 2001.
In 1998, Texaco and the Ecuadorian government signed a $40 million USD cleanup agreement, which Chevron claims absolves it of any liability. The plaintiffs claim the cleanup did not even begin to repair the damage Texaco created in its nearly 30 years of operation.
Chevron has refused to pay any part of the award, alleging fraud within the Ecuadorian courts.
As a result, Brazilian, Argentinean and Canadian courts have all either frozen or begun seizure and enforcement actions against Chevron assets within their respective borders.