Federal Judge Allows Chevron to Track Environmental Advocates

After a 20-year battle, Ecuador’s court ruled against Chevron in the world’s biggest environmental lawsuit, but the company isn’t giving up and has indeed settled on a new strategy to avoid paying $18.2 billion in damages for 30 years of pollution in the Amazon. 

Chevron is attempting to fight back by claiming it is a victim of conspiracy and incredibly, a US federal judge has given the company access to email and internet use by environmental advocates in order to build its case.

A federal judge ruling enforces Chevron’s subpoena for Microsoft to provide IP usage records and identity information for email accounts owned by over 100 environmental activists, journalists and attorneys. Chevron has also subpoenaed Yahoo! and Google.

The subpoena requires personal information on each account holder and IP addresses for every log-in over a nine year period, which could be used to map individuals’ locations and associations over nearly a decade, note the Electronic Frontier Foundation and EarthRights International, which are fighting the decision.

"Environmental advocates have the right to speak anonymously and travel without their every move and association being exposed to Chevron," says Marcia Hofmann, Senior Staff Attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "These sweeping subpoenas create a chilling effect among those who have spoken out against the oil giant’s activities in Ecuador."

Last year, an Ecuador judge ruled that indigenous farmers in the Amazon could seize $200 million in Chevron’s assets – the first time an indigenous community has prevailed against a multinational corporation. They were allowed to seize assets  because Chevron refuses to pay. 

Here’s the background on the case. Chevron was indicted for dumping 18.5 billion gallons of oil waste in the Ecuadorean Amazon.

Chevron oil pollution Amazon

"The courts have long recognized that forcing activists to reveal their names and political associations will chill First Amendment rights and can only be done in the most extreme situations," explains Marco Simons, Legal Director of EarthRights International, which has provided legal assistance to third parties affected by the Chevron litigation in two international proceedings. "We look forward to having those longstanding principles applied in this case so that people can engage in journalism and political activism and assist in litigation against environmental destruction without fear that their identities and personal email information will be put at risk."

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