Photo: Chevron Open to Mediation Over $19 Billion Environmental Damage Fine
U.S. supermajor Chevron Corp. is open to having the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA, or the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, mediate with Ecuador, a high-level company executive said.
The oil company has contacted the Ecuadorian government, President Rafael Correa and Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño so executives can “have a direct discussion with Quito,” Chevron Africa and Latin America president Ali Moshiri said in an interview with the Venezuelan daily El Universal.
“We are open to having organizations like ALBA or Unasur play a role,” Moshiri said, adding that Chevron “has a good relationship with every country in Latin America.”
Texaco, which was acquired by Chevron, “was a good partner of Ecuador, following the processes and procedures,” the executive said.
Chevron has been ordered by an Ecuadorian court to pay $19 billion for irreversible environmental damage caused in the Amazon between 1964 and the early 1990s by Texaco.
The case involves some 30,000 Amazon villagers who contend Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001, spoiled their lands and damaged their health by dumping billions of gallons of toxic drilling waste in a 480,000-hectare (1,850-sq.-mile) area of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
They are seeking to enforce a January 2012 appeals court judgment against Chevron in countries such as Argentina, Canada and Brazil because the U.S. company has few assets in Ecuador.
“Unfortunately, the problem with the Amazon and Ecuador is about a group of lawyers in the United States who have no other intention but to extract money from Chevron and are not worried about the people in Ecuador,” Moshiri said.
The pollution case was initially filed in New York in 1993, but Chevron succeeded in having it moved from the United States to Ecuador in 2003, four years before President Rafael Correa came to power amid voter anger at corruption and traditional politicians.
But Chevron now says that the case has become politicized under the leftist Correa and that it cannot receive a fair trial.
Although the oil company maintains that Texaco was cleared of any liability for damages, plaintiffs say that mid-1990s agreement with the government did not release it from third-party claims and that Chevron is reneging on its pledge to abide by whatever decision was handed down by Ecuadorian courts.
Chevron said on its Web site after the initial 2011 verdict by a court in the Ecuadorian Amazon town of Lago Agrio that state oil company Petroecuador should be the target of local communities’ legal action.
It noted then that Texaco ceased operating in Ecuador in 1992 and that Petroecuador has been “the sole and exclusive owner and operator of greatly expanded operations in the area from (that year) to the present.”