• Latest News
  • Pitch a Story
  • Work with a Journalist
  • Join the Blog Squad
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Baltimore
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Russia
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Health Care
  • Military
  • Occupy
  • Organize This
  • Reality Asserts Itself
  • US Politics
  • World's Largest Environmental Lawsuit in Ecuador

    30,000 natives fight for compensation against Texaco (now Chevron), accused of 3 decades of toxic dumping in Amazon -   December 22, 2010
    Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


    Share to Facebook Share to Twitter

    You are an inspiration. Thanks for everything you are doing. - Brenton
    Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


    World's Largest Environmental Lawsuit in EcuadorOSCAR LEON: Welcome to The Real News. I am Oscar Leon, and this is a special report on the struggle of 30,000 people from the Ecuadorian rainforest to get compensation for a series of oil spills that have caused massive ground and water contamination. The battle pits five indigenous tribes and more than 100 farmer organizations against Chevron, the third-largest company in United States. Chevron took on the battle when it purchased Texaco in 2001, and it's currently fighting a multibillion-dollar lawsuit in an Ecuadorian court. Escalating from $27 billion to $40 billion or maybe $90 billion, it stands as the largest environmental lawsuit in history and has already been held up in court for 18 years. In the early '70s, Texaco began drilling for oil in Ecuador's Amazon jungle and continued for more than 30 years. Those operations are believed to have resulted in what many experts have labeled as an ecological catastrophe that spilled many times more oil than the Exxon Valdez. Texaco is accused by the plaintiffs of dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic water and cancer-causing substances into the rainforest, and not by accident. The waste water was dumped in rivers and fields, and in some cases, deposited up in pools. According to the plaintiffs, 900 pools of waste have been found in the Ecuadorian rainforest where Texaco operated. The waste pools are nothing but holes in the ground, without any walls or cover to prevent contact with underground water. Moreover, each pool has a filtration system known as goose neck. It is designed to prevent the pools from overflowing with rain water by draining the contaminated water into nearby aquifers and streams.

    UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): The goose neck is pointing down to hold the oil, but the water--but the water's becoming--let's put it this way: the water is mixing with oil. It's draining through here, directly into the river.

    LEON: The plaintiffs claim that this bad management of toxic water was deliberate. They point to internal documents leaked from Texaco Florida's headquarters in 1972. The documents show the company instructing its employees to hide minor leaks and only report leaks large enough to draw the attention of the press and local authorities. It also instructs the staff to erase all evidence and documents related to any oil spill. In the poorest region of the country, people have two available water sources: underground wells and the Amazon Jungle rivers. Over the last 30 years, both sources have seen formerly pure water become loaded with toxics and cancer-causing agents. I contacted Chevron to understand their perspective on the issue. Chevron's Latin America media advisor, James Craig, responded, in an email, that Texaco already restored the pits it is responsible for back in 1995 at a cost of $40 million. He adds that:

    JAMES CRAIG, MEDIA ADVISOR FOR LATIN AMERICA, CHEVRON CORP. (TEXT ON SCREEN): The plaintiffs' lawyers' claim that Chevron is responsible for more than 900 pits in Ecuador's Oriente (Rainforest) cannot be substantiated by fact. Rather, it is an invention of their own that they have tried to pass off as the work of an "independent court appointee." The two sides negotiated a settlement and release agreement, signed in 1995, and Texaco Petroleum then proceeded to remediate its proportionate share of environmental liabilities. At a cost of $40 million, the company remediated 162 pits and six spill areas, installed seven injection systems for Petroecuador and provided more than $5 million to communities for social projects. After site-by-site verification of the remediated sites by state officials and experts of the Central University in Quito the Ecuadorian government and Petroecuador granted Texaco Petroleum a full and complete release of future liabilities.

    LEON: Pablo Fajardo, one of the lawyers working on behalf of the Amazon plaintiffs, says that those government officials were corrupted, and any agreement don't represent the reality on the ground or the perspective of the local people, which still feels that Chevron is responsible for the damage.

    PABLO FAJARDO, LOCAL LEADER AND LAWYER (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Our greatest challenge is the economic one. We are fighting against a very powerful corporation. They abuse their economic power. Our most serious challenge is the corrupting of officials by Texaco. There are tremendous and gigantic corruption schemes. They have always tried to manipulate governments, regime officials, and ministers to get their way.

    LEON: In 1972, Texaco began drilling for oil in Ecuador, the same year Pablo Fajardo was born. Through scholarships he obtained a law degree with the sole purpose of leading the legal fight to get compensation for the survivors in the rainforest. This relentless journey of years of study and struggle brought Fajardo recognition on CNN's 2007 Heroes Award ceremony, where he took the Hero of the Year award. For a moment, it seems to those watching from Ecuador that a victory for the Amazon farmers and tribes might not be out of reach after all.

    FAJARDO: I have the honor to represent as a lawyer five indigenous tribes and more than 100 farmer communities that are united to achieve reparations for a horrible environmental disaster caused by oil exploitation.

    LEON: This brought more attention, but three years later it hasn't translated to success on the legal front. We spoke with Fajardo by webcam from Sucumbios, Ecuador.

    FAJARDO: In a nutshell, I can tell you that there has been a clear intention by Chevron, formerly Texaco, to avoid any kind of trial or sentence, using all kinds of arguments, tricks, economic pressures, lobbying to persuade governments and judges, while wearing down the plaintiffs to avoid trial. What has prevented justice is all the tricks used by Chevron. It is important to understand the way Texaco operated. In 1964, Texaco got a drilling concession from the Ecuadorian government, where they gave them 1.4 million hectares to explore, drill, and extract oil from the Ecuadorian rainforest. The lands where Texaco started exploring back then were inhabited by native people like Siona, Secoya, Cofanes, Huaoranis, Tetete, Sansahuari--the latter two went extinct in the first years after Texaco got there. But what has been the main issue besides invading their lands, what Texaco did was to dump billions of gallons of toxic water straight into the rainforest rivers, constructed hundreds of pits to dump dirty mud, toxic waste into pits that had no cover or wall to prevent the waste from contaminating the environment. We are not blindly against the oil extraction. We are against the way things are done, the criminal and perverse way that companies extract the oil just to increase their profits. They caused disasters like Texaco in Ecuador or like the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Some governments have been complicit, sometimes for money looked the other way. I have said it a number of times and I will say it again: any compensation that comes out of the trial, no matter how big it might be, it would never be just to the Amazon people. There are many levels of damage beyond repair, like the ecosystem that was devastated by Texaco's operation. It does not matter how much money you spend, it can't be restored. Look at the indigenous cultures, two tribes has already extinct. [sic] There are four more tribes that are seriously threatened by oil operations. These cultures have been divided, demobilized, and put on a path to extinction. No money in the world can fix that. It can be remediated to some degree. Their extinction can be delayed. At the rate we are consuming and the damage inflicted, it's almost impossible for them to survive. And third, the life of people: according to public stats, as a consequence of the toxic waste left by Texaco in the Ecuadorian Jungle, in the last few years 2,000 more people have died of cancer in this area than the national average would have predicted. All those cancer deaths are a consequence of the spills and cannot be recovered either. So I repeat, no economic settlement, no matter how big, could ever bring true justice to the people of the Amazon.

    LEON: Initially the case was heard in a New York court. Texaco argued that the New York court had no jurisdiction over an oil spill in Ecuador, and after nine years the lawsuit was thrown out by the judge. Fajardo and the main attorney for the plaintiffs, Steven Donziger, responded by filing a new lawsuit, this time in a local court in the small Ecuadorian town of Sucumbios near the oil spill zone. According to Ecuadorian law, Judge Juan Nunez appointed an independent expert to determine an appropriate dollar amount to cover environmental cleanup, restoration, and compensate the victims. The result was a $27 billion lawsuit, the largest ever of its kind. The plaintiffs have since raised their demands to a number to be determined between $40 billion and $90 billion. In their initial statement, Chevron lawyers argued again that the Sucumbios court had no jurisdiction. Years of legal battle ensued, battles that seem slow motion for those still doomed to use their region's toxic water. In part two of this special report, we will go over some of the surprising turns the legal process has taken over the last 18 years while the jungle continues to die slowly. For The Real News, this is Oscar Leon.

    End of Transcript

    DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


    Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at


    Latest Stories

    The Resegregation of American Schools
    The Modern History of Venezuela, Why Still So Much Crime? - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (7/9)
    What Role Has Russia Played in Eastern Ukraine?
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (2/2)
    University Sit-In Targets World's Largest Private Coal Company
    The Modern History of Venezuela and the Need for a Post-Oil Economy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (6/9)
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (1/2)
    One Percent of Environmentalists Killings Lead to Convictions
    Investigation Finds Former Ukraine President Not Responsible For Sniper Attack on Protestors
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Ukraine Transitional Gov't Moves Militarily To Reclaim Seized Buildings
    IPCC Report Flawed By Narrow Focus on Carbon Emissions
    The Modern History of Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (5/9)
    Obama Signs Directives to Reduce the Gender Wage Gap
    Eastern Ukraine Lacks Political Representation in Kiev
    Demystifying the Role of Mitigation in the Most Recent IPCC Report
    Hypersurveillance State Won't Prevent Another Boston Marathon Bombing
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Univ. of Maine Faculty Reinstated After Students Protest Against Cuts
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1908 to 1973 - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (2/9)
    IMF Will Address Global Inequality, Says Managing Director Christine Lagarde
    Raising Big Banks' Leverage Ratio Good, But Not Nearly Enough
    TRNN Replay: Austerity Road to 19th Century
    Has Palestinian Maneuvering Revived Peace Talks?
    Late Jackson Mayor Lumumba's Son Wins Primary to Replace His Father, Runoff Election Ahead
    Quebecers Reject PQ and Elect a Liberal Government Representing Big Business
    TRNN Debate: Decriminalization vs. Legalization
    The Beginning of the Chavez Era - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (4/9)
    "Off With His Head": Court Upholds Obama's Power to Kill
    Workers at Nation's Top Hospital Strike For Fair Wages
    From Exile to Radicalization in Venezuela - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (1/9)
    Rwanda 20 Years Later: Genocide, Western Plunder of Congo, and President Kagame
    Ukrainian Protesters in the East Demand More Autonomy From Kiev Government
    Hunger Strikers Demand President Obama Halt His Record 2 Million Deportations
    Indian Parliamentary Elections - A Primer With Vijay Prashad
    West Looks to Carve Up Ukraine & Privatize Industries Held by Kleptocrats
    Where Are Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations Headed?
    The Multiple Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia (5/5)
    Do the Afghan Presidential Elections Signify Progress?
    Republican Presidential Hopefuls Pay Homage to Billionaire Casino Tycoon Sheldon Adelson
    Will Extremist Lieberman Become Israel's Next Prime Minister?
    Why do the Saudis Want the US to Attack Iran? (4/5)
    Immigrant Advocates and Families Tell President Obama 'Not One More'
    Elections, Pipelines, and Protests - The Canada Panel
    Chris Hedges on "Israel's War on American Universities"
    Baltimore Residents Decry Lack of Affordable Housing
    Yellen Talks the Talk But Will She Walk the Walk?
    Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against "Poverty Wages"
    Will Venezuela's New Floating Exchange Rate Curb Inflation?
    The European Central Bank's War on Wages is Pushing Europe's Economy to the Brink
    Supreme Court Decision Opens Floodgates for More Campaign Cash
    Charles Keating, the Financier Behind the Savings and Loan Scandal, Dies at 90
    Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda Monster (3/5)
    Maryland Residents Voice Opposition to Natural Gas Fracking Export Facility
    Supreme Court Ruling Gives Wealthy Individuals More Influence Over Elections
    What are the Saudis Afraid Of? - Madawi Al-Rasheed (2/5)
    Baltimore's MICA Adjunct Professors Set to Vote on Unionization
    Boycott of Israel Moving to Next Level?
    Hypocrisy Dressed Up as "Realism" Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship
    Immigration Reform in the Shadows of Cesar Chavez's Legacy
    Leaked Senate Report Shows Use of Torture As "Ineffective"
    UN Report Says Climate Change Will Threaten Food Production Worldwide
    The Hypocrisy of US Calling for Enforcement of International Law
    How the Ecuadorian Economy Grew in a Global Recession
    'Shadows of Liberty' Trailer
    Kristina Borjesson on Why CBS Shut Down Her investigation into Flight 800 (2/8)
    Glen Ford on Racism in the American Media (3/8)
    Paul Jay on What Drives Corporate Media and What Drive The Real News (4/8)
    Creating a New Media Paradigm After Citizens United (5/8)
    Should The Left Engage with the Mainstream Media? (6/8)
    What Is the Financial Backing For The Real News? (7/8)
    Standing up to Character Assassination (8/8)
    Oligarchs, Fascists and the People's Protest in Ukraine
    TRNN Debate: Is Obamacare In the Interest of Workers?
    Too-Big-To-Fail Advantage Remains Intact For Big Banks
    Obama and the Saudi Agenda
    TRNN Replay: Investigating the Saudi Government's 9/11 Connection and the Path to Disilliusionment - Sen. Graham on Reality Asserts Itself pt 1
    The Iraq War's Real Legacy
    Petitions with 100,000+ Signatures Call for Snowden's Passport to be Reinstated
    We Need to Harness People Power - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (4/4)
    BC Pipeline Fight and Quebec Elections - The Canada Panel
    Jonathan Schell - 1943-2014: Board Member of TRNN on Why We Need The Real News
    Teachers on Strike from the UK to Argentina
    Connecticut Poised to Become First State with $10.10 Minimum Wage
    Oil Spill Threatens Wildlife and Local Economy
    DC School Test Scores Up, But Poor Black Kids Are Doing Worse - Andy Shallal on RAI (3/4)
    Obama's Proposal To End NSA Bulk Data Collection Won't Protect Privacy
    How Google, Apple & The Biggest Tech Companies Colluded to Fix Workers' Wages
    An American Should be One that Questions Their Government - Andy Shallal on RAI (2/4)
    What's Driving Putin & Obama's Posturing on Ukraine?
    Hundreds of Students & Faculty Occupy College Campus to Fight Cuts to Public Higher Ed
    Due Process 'Impossible' In Harsh Death Sentencing Of Over 500 Muslim Brotherhood Members
    Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam?
    Being the "Other" in America - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (1/4)
    TRNN Debate: Should Baltimore 'Ban The Box'?
    How Fallujah Became the Iraqi Government's New Battleground
    Why I Decided to Blow the Whistle on the NSA
    NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity
    Professor Who Teaches Israel-Palestine Conflict Accuses College of Violating His Academic Freedom
    CIA and NSA Wrongdoing Requires Independent Investigation, Says Former Church Committee Staff
    Are Tuition Breaks Enough To Combat High Student Debt And Low Graduation Rates?
    Industries Across the U.S. Are Stealing Wages From Their Lowest Paid Workers
    Who In Ukraine Will Benefit From An IMF Bailout?
    NSA Recording All International Calls From U.S.
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (2/2)
    BP Gets Green Light to Drill in Gulf, But Has Safety Improved?
    Residents Still Not Drinking Tap Water Two Months After West Virginia Spill (1/2)
    Libya's Descent Into Turmoil Three Years After NATO Intervention
    From Pipelines to Peladeau - Canadian Report
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (1/2)
    Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Strikes Back Against Austerity
    Libya Three Years Later - Chaos and Partition
    Why Was Gaddafi Overthrown?
    Should Ukraine and West Accept De Facto Crimea Joining Russia? (2/2)
    Tony Benn Saw Socialism as the Culmination of Democratization
    Why Didn't Bush/Cheney Attack Iran and Can Obama Make and Sell a Deal? - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi? (2/2)
    Crimea Referendum: Self Determination or Big Power Manipulation? (1/2)
    Sen. Graham: President Must Side with Openness About CIA and 9/11
    Manufacturing a Narrative for War - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3)
    Protesters Hit the Streets of Brooklyn to Demand $15 Minimum Wage
    Hammer: 'Moral Bankruptcy' Behind Massive GM Recall
    White House Withholds Thousands of Documents from Senate CIA Probe
    I Grew Up Believing in Time Magazine's Version of America - Gareth Porter on RAI (1/3)
    Western European Banks Vulnerable to Ukrainian Sovereign Debt Crisis
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (2/2)
    CIA vs. Senate: Who Is Obama Protecting?
    Will Tipped Workers Get Excluded Again From Minimum Wage Hike?
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (1/2)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi?(1/2)
    TRNN Replay: A Look at Who's Poised to Become No.2 at the Fed
    How Right-Wing Nationalism Rose to Influence in Ukraine (2/2)
    Netanyahu Attacks Boycott As Campaign Enters New Phase
    Moving Towards a Police State - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (7/7)
    Fighting Reagan's Secret, Illegal Wars - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (6/7)
    Puerto Rican Independence Movement and Cuba Further Radicalized Me - Michael Ratner on RAI (5/7)
    The Butcher of Attica - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (4/7)
    MLK and a Radicalizing Moment in American History - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (3/7), Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

    All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network.  Click here for more

    Problems with this site? Please let us know

    Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting