Chevron hit with record environmental fine.
An Ecuadorian judge on Monday ordered Chevron Corp. to pay $8.6 billion to clean up oil pollution in the country’s rain forest in what is believed to be the largest-ever judgment in an environmental case.
Few legal experts expected the case to get this far. The plaintiffs first sued Texaco in New York in 1993. Texaco, and later Chevron, successfully argued that the case should instead be heard in Ecuador, which was then run by a government seen as friendly to American business interests.
The case has been bitterly fought by both sides, with each accusing the other of improprieties. In recent months, Chevron uncovered a secret memo revealing the plaintiffs’ strategy for enforcing any favorable Ecuadorian ruling around the world. That means that Chevron could be forced to defend itself in any of the dozens of countries where it does business.
The oil company, which denies responsibility for the pollution, has no assets in Ecuador and has vowed to fight any efforts to seize its property overseas. Other multinational corporations are closely watching the case.
The judge ruled Chevron must pay $5.4 billion to restore polluted soil and $1.4 billion to create a health system for the community, among other penalties. The court also ruled that Chevron should pay the Amazon Defense Front, a coalition formed by the plaintiffs, an additional 10% in damages, or about $860 million. That could bring the total judgment to $9.5 billion.
Chevron should just accept responsibility for this. The fine is a wake up call for oil companies, they cannot destroy environments without consequences.