LAGO AGRIO, Ecuador (Reuters/Victor Gomez) – A court in Ecuador’s Amazon jungle has ordered Chevron to pay $8 billion in a closely-watched environmental lawsuit, but the U.S. oil company rejected the ruling as “illegitimate”.
The highly controversial case has triggered related legal action in U.S. courts and international arbitration and is being monitored by the oil industry for precedents that could lead to other large claims.
In a statement on Monday, Chevron did not give any figure from the ruling by the court in Lago Agrio.
But Pablo Fajardo, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the court had ordered Chevron to pay more than $8 billion damages.
The lawsuit had originally demanded $27 billion.
The U.S. oil company said it would appeal the decision. “The Ecuadorean court’s judgment is illegitimate and unenforceable,” Chevron said in a statement.
“As of today, Chevron’s guilt for extensive oil contamination in the Amazon rainforest is official. It is time Chevron takes responsibility for these environmental and public health damages, which they have fought for the past 18 years.
“Today’s ruling in Ecuador against Chevron proves overwhelmingly that the oil giant is responsible for billionsof gallons of highly toxic waste sludge deliberately dumped into local streams and rivers, which thousands depend on for drinking, bathing, and fishing.
“Chevron has spent the last 18 years waging unprecedented public relations and lobbying campaigns to avoid cleaning up the environmental and public health catastrophe it left in the Amazon rainforest. Today’s guilty verdict sends a loud and clear message: It is time Chevron clean up its disastrous mess in Ecuador.
“Today’s case is historic and unprecedented. It is the first time Indigenous people have sued a multinational corporation in the country where the crime was committed and won.
“Today’shistoric ruling against Chevron is a testament to the strength of the Ecuadorian people who have spent 18 years bringing Chevron to justice while suffering the effects of the company’s extensive oil contamination.”