Maria Aguinda Salazar y otros v. Chevron Corporation
Judgement n. 174-2012
National Court of Justice, Civil and Corporate Division
Quito, 12 November 2013
12 November 2013
Environmental Management Act
International Labour Organization Convention
Constitution of the Republic
Code of Civil Procedure
Hidrocarbons Exploration and Exploitation Regulation
Ejecutiva Statute on the Legal – Administrative Regime of the Executive Function
Hidrocarbons Fields and Deposits Act
María Aguinda and others filed a complaint against Chevron Corporation seeking reparation for severe environmental contamination of the land where Chevron had conducted its oil operation activities. The complainants highlighted the adverse health effects which resulted from the environmental damage including high cancer rates, spontaneous miscarriages, high mortality rates among children and genetic malformations. The complainants also highlighted the existential threat to indigenous communities posed by the environmental degradation, through the displacement from ancestral territories and the loss of identity and cultural integrity.
The activities in question had been undertaken by Texaco Petróleos del Ecuador (Texaco), a subsidiary of Texas Petroleum Company which was acquired by Chevron Corporation in 2001. The court of first instance found that Texaco’s activities caused environmental damage affecting the groundwater and the surrounding soil. This included a contaminated area of 7,392,000 cubic meters containing 880 pools of petroleum. Surface water for human consumption was severely contaminated by the dumping of at least 16 billion gallons of polluted water formed during Texaco’s operations, while leakage from the uncoated petroleum pools – more secure alternatives such as steel pools having been unreasonably ruled out on the basis of cost – led to the contamination of the groundwater.
Issue and resolution:
Reparation for environmental damage. The Environmental Management Act and other legislation requires the person or entity responsible for environmental damage and human health problems to indemnify the communities that have been directly affected and to repair all damage caused. The Court held that Chevron was at serious fault regarding the environmental damage and liable for such reparation.
The Court held Chevron had committed a serious fault because the generated contamination could be considered dangerous and likely to cause damage to the environment and human health, and existed as a result of the manner in which the company performed its operations. The dumping of waste could have been avoided by using alternative methods and equipment available at the time.
For all the above mentioned reasons the Court ordered the company to:
- Remove and properly treat waste and contaminated materials still present in the pools and sanitise all natural or artificial water sources ($600,000,000).
- Repair the soils located around the pools so that they could recover their natural conditions ($5,396,160).
- Repair the flora, fauna and aquatic life ($200,000,000).
- Implement a safe water system for the people living in the area ($150,000,000).
- Implement mitigation measures for irreparable damages to people’s health and culture ($1,400,000,000).
- Create a programme for community reconstruction and ethnical reaffirmation ($100,000,000).
- Cover public health problems, for instance the high rate of mortality due to cancer ($800,000,000).
After several appeals, the National Court of Justice forcefully condemned Chevron and ordered the company to pay $8,000,646,160.
Chevron has yet to pay the full amount of damages outlined above, but is no longer operating in Ecuador. The complainants are trying to enforce the decision in countries where Chevron has, with some progress. The source is available at http://site.adital.com.br/site/noticia.php?lang=ES&cod=88140.
A Canadian Judge has stated that it would be possible to open proceedings in Canada to enforce the judgment against Chevron’s assets, and the Supreme Court of Canada has issued a decision to ignore the separate legal personality of a local subsidiary in order to satisfy a judgment obtained against its foreign parent corporation in a foreign jurisdiction. The source is available at http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=a0c8ff4a-e357-4e87-ab33-d45e32610dc2.
A documentary film about the damage caused by Chevron in Ecuador is being made. The Government has recognised the issue and a Ministry of Environment has been created. The source is available at http://kaosenlared.net/ecuador-la-selva-envenenada/.
On the “International Day against Chevron”, political parties, trade unions and committees supporting affected communities joined on 21 May 2014 to protest against Chevron’s practices. The source is available at http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=185081.
Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa, conducted the campaign “The Dirty Hands of Chevron” in order to combat Chevron’s practices. The source is available at http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=174182.
A European Support Network in favour of communities affected by Chevron has been created. The source is available at http://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/negocios/red-de-apoyo-a-afectados.html.
Link to Full Judgment:
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