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Protracted lawfare: the tale of Chevron Texaco in the Amazon

Sarah Joseph

Keywords: Aguinda; Amazon; Chevron; Ecuador; environment; health; Indigenous; litigation; Texaco

Abstract

The Texaco oil company has long been accused of creating an environmental and human rights catastrophe while conducting oil operations in the Ecuadorian Amazon over a number of decades to 1990. Plaintiffs from the area, largely Indigenous people, have sought compensation via litigation for nearly twenty years, first against Texaco, then against the merged successor company ChevronTexaco (now known as ‘Chevron’). This article tells the tale (so far) of that litigation, which has wound its way from the United States to Ecuador and back again. The plaintiffs won a US$18 billion judgment in Ecuador in early 2011, though an appeal is pending. Furthermore, related litigation remains ongoing in the US as well as in the Hague in the Netherlands. This story of protracted and ongoing ‘lawfare’ reveals just how difficult it can be to hold major multinational corporations accountable for environmental and human rights harms when those harms have taken place in a weak developing State in a virtual regulatory vacuum.

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