US oil company Chevron Corp [official website] announced Friday that it has filed an appeal [text, PDF, in Spanish] with the National Court of Justice in Ecuador asking it to reconsider the decision rendered by an Ecuadorian judge [press release] that would require Chevron to pay $18 billion in damages from the pollution it has caused to the Amazon jungle. Chevron appealed on grounds that the lower court's decision violated Ecuador's constitution because the court failed to correct or punish [Reuters report] the "extensive fraud and corruption" that was being committed by the lawyers representing the plaintiffs. Chevron, which inherited the case after taking over Texaco, argued that the application of law was also incorrect because Ecuador released Texaco from liability during the 1990s. Chevron has also attempted to find other ways to overturn the judgment by instituting arbitration proceedings in The Hague under the US-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) [text, PDF]. In February 2011, the tribunal conducting the arbitration proceedings ordered Ecuador to suspend enforcement of the lower court's judgment against Chevron until further notice. Chevron has also instituted a suit in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York against the plaintiff's representatives for violating federal statutes, including racketeering.
The judgment against Chevron was upheld in January by a three-judge panel of the Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbios in Lago Agrio, Ecuador. The $18 billion fine, one of the largest in the history of environmental contamination suits, was originally set at $8.6 billion [JURIST report] but was more than doubled for Chevron's refusal to pay "moral reparations" to the Ecuadorian government, as required by the original ruling. The Amazon Defense Coalition [advocacy website], plaintiffs in the suit, have responded that the first judgment was a reaffirmation of how Chevron's greed and criminal misconduct in dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the river has led to death and disease. Damages were initially awarded in February by the Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbios which found that Texaco, which was acquired by Chevron in 2001, polluted large areas of the country's rain forest.