The news wires are buzzing with reaction to a landmark environmental case in which an Ecuador court ordered U.S. oil giant Chevron Corp. to pay $8.6 billion to clean up oil pollution in EcuadorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rain forest.
The award is believed to be the largest ever imposed for environmental contamination and could double if Chevron does not publicly apologize for the oil pollution within the next 15 days, as ordered by the judge.
Today an article in the New York Times follows up with the news that representatives for Ecuadorean villagers say they plan to pursue Chevron in more than a dozen countries where it operates in a bid to force the company to pay.
The case has been the subject of proceedings in courts in Ecuador and the U.S. for nearly 20 years.
Residents of EcuadorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Amazon forest, who are plaintiffs in the case, are attempting to hold Chevron liable for environmental damage they claim resulted from the operations of Texaco Inc. in the region from 1965 to 1992. Chevron inherited the suit when it acquired Texaco in 2001.
An editorial in the Wall Street Journal observes:
The Ecuador suit is a form of global forum shopping, with U.S. trial lawyers and NGOs trying to hold American companies hostage in the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s least accountable and transparent legal systems. If the plaintiffs prevail, the result could be a global free-for-all against U.S. multinationals in foreign jurisdictions.Ã¢â‚¬
The LA Times quotes John van Schaik, oil analyst at Medley Global Advisors in New York, saying:
The appeals could go on for many years. But the fact that the Lago Agrio court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs sends a signal to oil companies that, more than ever, they need to be good corporate citizens.Ã¢â‚¬
The case is being watched closely by other multinational corporations.
Check out the Huffington Post for more on this story.