Chevron Loses Appeal, Owes Ecuadorans $9.5 Billion for Polluting Rainforest

Oil giant Chevron must still pay out $9.5 billion to Ecuadorans for polluting their rainforest.

There was oil in them thar rainforest, and subsequently, heavy pollution in the nearby water and diseases in the people. So there's a settlement now in Chevron Corp.'s future -- but whether the Bay Area-based oil megacorporation will ever be compelled to pay is another matter.

An Ecuadoran appeals court upheld a $9.5 billion settlement awarded to people in an area of the rain forest called the Oriente, where oil companies have drilled and built pipelines since the 1960s. The lawsuit was first filed in 1993. Chevron is named in the suit since it purchased Texaco, the original driller, in 2001.

A three-judge panel in Ecuador dismissed Chevron's appeal of the original award this week, but the oil giant still has many methods of avoiding paying, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. First, it's appealing the ruling to international courts in Europe. Second, it may yet appeal the decision to a higher court in Ecuador.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the company has no assets in Ecuador, according to the newspaper, leaving the plaintiffs in the case with no clear method of how to collect.

Nonetheless, the Oriente residents who originally sued Texaco in 1993 are buoyed by the result -- and the company is still opposing the ruling, saying that the case is "a fraud" fabricated by lawyers, who colluded with the judges who levied the sizable fine -- which could jump to $18 billion in two weeks if the company does not apologize for polluting.

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