Friday, 22 May 2020 15:45

New chair named in ongoing Ecuador vs Chevron dispute

Albert Jan van den Berg, a partner in Hanotiau & van den Berg in Brussels, has been appointed to chair the tribunal hearing of the ongoing $9.5 billion dispute between Chevron and Ecuador over environmental contamination in the Amazon, replacing the recently deceased VV Veeder QC.

Albert Jan van den BergIn the case, Chevron is defending itself against allegations that it is responsible for alleged environmental and social damage in the Amazon region of Ecuador.

In February 2011, an $18 billion judgment—later reduced to $9.5 billion—was rendered against Chevron by a court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, for alleged contamination resulting from crude oil production in the region.

According to Pablo Fajardo, a lawyer working for UDAPT, the union representing those affected by the environmental damage caused by the oil spill, "Chevron operated in the Ecuadorian Amazon with the aim of obtaining the largest possible economic return for the company". To achieve this goal, it used obsolete techniques and was fully aware of the pollution it was causing, UDAPT says.

Other practices Chevron indulged in include open-air burning of gases and the spilling of oil onto roads – according to the company, in order to prevent the raising of dust. Fajardo says that, up to now, at least "2,000 people have died from cancer due to toxins and polluted water and air".

Texaco, which was taken over by Chevron in 2001, arrived in Ecuador in 1964 to drill for oil in the northern Ecuadorian Amazon, specifically in the provinces of Sucumbíos and Orellana, an area of great  biodiversity that is home to dozens of indigenous and peasant communities.

Chevron filed an appeal against the $9.5 billion fine, but the ruling was ratified by all the judicial instances in Ecuador - including the National Court of Justice and the Constitutional Court.

On August 31, 2018, almost 10 years later, a Permanent Court of Arbitration panel issued an award in favour of the company, ordering Ecuador to annul the decision of the Sucumbíos court and ruling, in addition, that the Ecuadorian State should pay Chevron a compensation amount - still to be determined - for the alleged economic and moral damages that it had caused.

According to Fajardo, UDAPT will continue to seek justice with the aim not only of getting Chevron to repair the damage it has caused in the Ecuadorian Amazon but, more importantly, of "setting a precedent, so that this type of crime will not be repeated in any other place in the world".

The Latin American Lawyer
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