Court Orders Chevron to Pay Indigenous Communities

An Ecuadoran court has order Chevron to pay almost $10 billion to Indigenous plaintiffs who, the court found, have been damaged by decades of contamination from oil operations there. The oil operations, originally conducted by Texaco, which merged with Chevon in 2001, included some egregious behavior, leaving oil sludge in open pits and rivers, conducting almost no remediation, and contaminating huge areas of rainforest. The plaintiffs--30,000 Indigenous people and farmers--claim very high rates of cancer and other diseases related to exposure to toxins.

First Texaco and now Chevron have been fighting the case for nearly 20 years and argued vigorously for the case to be moved from the United States to Ecuador. Critics of the company hold that they moved the case there in the hopes that they could more easily influence the court and take advantage of the country's pro-development sensibilities. If that was their hope, it has backfired. The judge ordered the company to pay $8.6 billion in damages and another 10 percent in reparations. He also ordered the company to publicly apologize within 15 days or have the fines doubled. Chevron says it will appeal the decision.