photo by Rainforest Action Network (Flickr CC)

An Ecuadoran court has found oil giant Chevron guilty of contaminating the South American country’s Amazon basin.

A judge in an Ecuadoran court levied a fine of $8bn (€6bn) against Chevron for deaths, illnesses and monetary losses sustained by the local inhabitants of the rainforest from spills of toxic waste and crude oil. The spills are estimated by a Swedish University study to total 30bn gallons (113bn liters). This amount dwarfs the 205m gallons spilt by BP in the Gulf of Mexico.

Though the suit is being touted as a hard fought victory for the indigenous people of Ecuador, the amount fell far short of the $27.3 sought by plaintiffs.

The epic and bitterly fought lawsuit over the “Amazon Chernobyl” has been going on for 18 years. It was brought on behalf of 30,000 people whose health and environment were allegedly damaged by chemical-laden waste water dumped by Texaco’s operations from 1972 to 1990. Chevron bought Texaco in 2001.


Chevron blasted the judgment, calling it “illegitimate”, “unenforceable” and a “fraud”. Due to appeals, the US-based multinational energy company will probably be able to avoid paying out for years. This seems to be par for the course for Chevron.

From a statement by Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network via a BBC News report:

Chevron has spent the last 18 years waging unprecedented public relations and lobbying campaigns to avoid cleaning up the environmental and public health catastrophe it left in the Amazon rainforest.

Read more on the story in the Guardian and from AP, including a video report.