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Chevron Must Pay $8 Billion For Despoiling Amazon in Ecuador

On Monday, a court in Ecuador told Chevron it owes $8 billion for environmental contamination in the Amazon.

This is Ecuador, where oil companies wield economic power and political influence. Yet, this didn’t cloud the court’s independent eye when faced with the facts of uncovered toxic waste pits in the pristine Amazon.

This is Chevron, a private, American corporation. Yet this didn’t stop the Ecuadorian court from making Chevron, a foreign company, pay for 26 years of environmental damage in Ecuador.

This is $8 billion dollars. And the court made it clear that Chevron was at fault, so Chevron must pay.

Chevron is calling the decision “illegitimate and unenforceable.”

Even if Chevron doesn’t pay a cent, this is a victory.

With this judgment, courts in Ecuador and other countries won’t have to break new ground when telling foreign corporations to pay – substantially – to clean up their environmental mess. The $8 billion raises the bar for other courts to decide how much environmental destruction from foreign corporations costs.

Plus, this case is a testament to the strength of court systems around the globe. The Ecuadorian plaintiffs originally brought their case in the U.S., but Chevron pushed for it to be heard in Ecuador. In 2001, the U.S. courts agreed – but only after Chevron “unambiguously agreed in writing to being sued ... in Ecuador.” Now Chevron is calling the judges corrupt and the decision “a product of fraud.”

When the case was moved to Ecuador, some doubts arose as to the ability of the Ecuadorian legal system to stand up to the powerful oil giant. Lawyers and activists in Ecuador and elsewhere, through their tireless, excellent work, succeeded in getting a court to recognize the legitimacy of claims based on environmental degradation and its effect on the health and lives of the people in its wake.

Back when the case was still in the U.S. courts, Earthjustice wrote friends-of-the-court briefs in support of the plaintiffs, arguing that the kinds of damage the oil company caused was severe enough for our courts to recognize.

We commend the efforts of all those who fought this long, 18-year battle, and will build on their work as we promote environmental justice and corporate accountability.