Chevron’s attempt to overturn the $19 billion judgment against it in Ecuador for polluting the Amazon rainforest won’t get a hearing by the US Supreme Court.
The nation’s high court this week rejected the US oil company’s appeal of a federal court ruling, with no explanation.
It’s the latest twist in a case that has been going on for 18 year, originally brought against Texaco (bought by Chevron in 2001).
Farmers have been seeking redress for damages from 16 billion gallons of toxic waste sludge dumped into rivers and streams from 1964-1990. Texaco left the country in 1992.
Thousands of people depend on that water for drinking, bathing, and fishing
In February 2011, an Ecuadorean judge imposed damages of $8.6 billion against Chevron – the fine has more than doubled since then because the court required Chevron to make a public apology, which it hasn’t.
Chevron filed an appeal in New York to block the judgment, saying it was illegal and unenforceable under the state’s law – and a federal judge took its side in March 2011.
But earlier this year, an appeals court overturned that decision, noting US courts can’t interfere with courts from other countries. But Chevron didn’t give up, it appealed again – this time to the Supreme Court.
Chevron has been adamant about fighting what it believes is a judgment brought by a corrupt foreign court. The irony is that Chevron actually petitioned to have the case moved from the US to Ecuador in the first place.
"While Chevron is disappointed that the Court denied our petition, we will continue to defend against the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ attempts to enforce the fraudulent Ecuadorean judgment, and to further expose their misconduct," the company told Reuters.
"The company want to prevent a "disturbing trend" where lawyers win big money judgments against U.S. companies in corrupt foreign courts, and then seek to enforce them in countries where the companies operate," says Reuters.
If it all sounds complicated, it is, but the bottom line is this is a closely watched case because it sets a precedent that would impact other pending pollution cases against oil companies.
When the Ecuadorian judge first ruled in favor of indigenous groups, they said:
"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."
Since then, the government of Ecuador and the United Nations Development Programme signed a historic deal to leave an estimated 846 million barrels of crude oil untapped beneath Yasuní National Park, a World Biosphere Reserve since 1989.