Ecuadorans seek $18.2 billion damage judgment against Chevron in Ontario courts – by John Spears (Toronto Star – May 31, 2012)

The Toronto Star, has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

A group of 30,000 Ecuadorans who won an $18.3 (U.S.) billion judgment against the oil giant Chevron in Ecuador for polluting the rainforest are asking Ontario’s courts to help them collect.

But the company is not yielding quietly in the two-decades-old case, claiming that the legal actions against it are a “multi-billion-dollar scam.” A Chevron executive has accused lawyers and consultants for the plaintiffs of trying to “extort a multi-billion dollar payment from Chevron through fabricated evidence and a campaign to incite public outrage.”

The Ecuadorans’ Canadian lawyer Alan Lenczner says he’s not re-trying a case that’s already been decided, however – he’s simply trying to enforce a judgment rendered in Ecuador.

The Ontario claim, filed Wednesday, hasn’t been tested in court. Statements of claim are subject to challenge, and material may be amended or deleted. The claim names Chevron Corp., Chevron Canada Ltd. and Chevron Canada Finance Ltd.

The roots of the case go back to the early 1990s, when Texaco – which was later taken over by Chevron – was pumping oil from the Ecuadoran rainforest in partnership with Ecuador’s state oil company. Texaco was the operator.

Left behind, says Lenczner, were more than 900 pits filled with a mixture of water, oil and mud, pumped to the surface as a byproduct of the operation.

The pits are unlined, Lenczner says, meaning chemicals from the oil can seep into groundwater. They also overflow into surface streams.

“At the heart of this is the degradation in the rainforest,” Lenczner told reporters Wednesday.

“Kids are drinking this water. It’s on their fields and in their crops.”

The result, the plaintiffs claim, has been widespread damage both to the environment and to the health of residents.

The legal battle began in 1993, when a group of Ecuadorans filed an action in New York seeking compensation on behalf of the residents in 1,500-square-mile area for actions taken between 1972 and 1990.

Texaco said the case should be heard in Ecuador, and eventually won its way.

A trial in Ecuador began in 2003, and wrapped up in 2011 with the massive judgment against Chevron. It was upheld on appeal last January.

The problem for his clients, says Lenczner, is that Chevron has few assets remaining in Ecuador.

But it has substantial assets in Canada – including stakes in the Athabaska oil sands, oil fields off Newfoundland, and retail outlets.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1203135–ecuadorans-seek-18-2-billion-damage-judgment-against-chevron-in-ontario-courts

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