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Chevron Appeals Ecuador Ruling

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Chevron Corp. has appealed February’s landmark judgment holding the oil conglomerate responsible for environmental cleanup in Ecuador’s Amazon basin, alleging that some of the plaintiffs’ claims were fraudulent.

Alleging a “pattern of fraud by the plaintiffs’ lawyers, supporters and others that has corrupted the trial, as well as the numerous legal and factual defects in the judgment,” the company said in a March 11 statement that it had appealed the ruling in the Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbíos in Lago Agrio, Ecuador.

It has already challenged the ruling on other fronts as well, all of which will tie the ruling up in court for years, effectively quelching any payment attempts, the BBC noted.

Observers expected as much after the February 14 ruling, which levied $8.6 billion in cleanup fines, plus fees that brought the total to $9.4 billion. Although it was considered a major victory for the lawyers and activists who had been pushing the case for nearly two decades, there is no mechanism to get Chevron to pay.

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The case was brought on behalf of 30,000 plaintiffs who allege that their habitat was destroyed and their health compromised by residue and pollution left from three decades of oil drilling. Chevron merged with Texaco, the original player, in 2001, when the latter was already being sued in the U.S. The case was moved to Ecuador in 2003 after a U.S. judge ruled that it should be tried there.

Texaco was accused of pouring 18.5 billion gallons of oil-reservoir waters into Amazon tributaries and leaving 916 pits of toxic sludge scattered across the region before it sold its Ecuador operations to state oil company Petroecuador in 1992.

“Chevron continues to seek recourse through legal proceedings outside of Ecuador,” the company said. On Mar. 7 it got the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to issue a preliminary injunction against the Lago Agrio plaintiffs, attorneys and their supporters forbidding them to enforce the judgment “pending resolution by the U.S. court of Chevron’s claims that the Lago Agrio judgment is unenforceable,” Chevron said in its statement.

This is in addition to the February 9 order issued by The Hague that stems from a 2009 arbitration under the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) that requires Ecuador “to take all measures at its disposal to prevent enforcement of the Lago Agrio judgment until further order of the Tribunal, including the Tribunal’s final award on the merits,” Chevron said.