Chevron Corp. wins court battle against Ecuadorian villagers

Newburgh Gazette | 21 June 2017

Chevron Corp. wins court battle against Ecuadorian villagers

Chevron is victorious after the Supreme Court declined to hear a case made against the company by a NY lawyer representing Ecuadorian villagers.

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Chevron had been found guilty in Ecuador of causing environmental damage to the Lago Agrio region. Chevron meanwhile has attacked the Ecuador case as a fraud for almost a decade. A federal judge in NY blocked enforcement of the Ecuadorian judgment in 2014, saying it had been corruptly obtained.

While not disputing that pollution occurred, San Ramon, California-based Chevron has said it is not liable and that Donziger and his associates orchestrated the writing of a key environmental report and bribed the presiding judge in Ecuador.

The case’s rejection Monday likely marks the US judiciary’s final salvo in a three-continent-wide litigation that is now nearing its 25th year.

"The Supreme Court’s decision closes a chapter and will allow the global public to properly focus on the true substance of the case, which is an worldwide judgment enforcement process - in which US courts have no role - and the devastating environmental and human tragedy that both Chevron and the global community need to address", Donziger said in a statement.

The Supreme Court’s decision to block the fine was unanimously affirmed on Monday. Donziger had been referring to evidence from the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration that he contends vindicates him of fraud.

Because this evidence came to light after the 2014 ruling in NY, though, the Second Circuit refused to consider it. More broadly, the Supreme Court has missed the last chance for US courts to salvage their worldwide reputation when it comes to their disgraceful conduct related to the Ecuadorian villagers’ fight for justice. R. Hewitt Pate, Chevron’s vice president and general counsel said the latest U.S. Supreme Court decision was "an important step toward bringing this illegal scheme to a final conclusion".

"The Supreme Court’s decision closes a chapter and will allow the global public to properly focus on the true substance of the case, which is an worldwide judgment enforcement process - in which US courts have no role - and the devastating environmental and human tragedy that both Chevron and the global community need to address".

The group Amazon Watch meanwhile called the victory lap premature. "It is way too early for Chevron to celebrate".

We must remember that it was USA courts that insisted in 2002 that the Ecuadorians’ claims should be heard in Ecuador, and paved the way for a trial there by demanding that Chevron submit to the jurisdiction of Ecuadorian courts and abide by any judgment.

In The Hague, the Permanent Court of Arbitration has not yet issued a ruling on Chevron’s accusations that Ecuador’s courts denied them justice. A Canadian judge allowed the Ecuadoreans to pursue a trial against Chevron this past January, but also shielded a subsidiary from the corporate parent’s liabilities. Donziger is hopeful of that process. The next hearing on the claim by the villagers is scheduled for October 10 in Toronto before the Ontario Court of Appeals.