The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice: Ecuador Ordered to Prevent Enforcement of Verdict Against Chevron & Chevron Paid Thousands To Influence Government Trade Talks

Ecuador Ordered to Prevent Enforcement of Verdict Against Chevron

QUITO – An international arbitration court in The Hague has ordered Ecuador to prevent “recognition and enforcement” of an $18.2 billion judgment against Chevron Corp. for environmental damage in the Amazon, the U.S. oil company said.

The ruling, issued by a panel of three judges, orders Ecuador’s executive, legislative and judicial branches to “take all measures necessary to suspend or cause to be suspended the enforcement and recognition within and without Ecuador,” the company said in a press release Friday.

Chevron, which took the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, Netherlands, under the terms of the U.S.-Ecuador bilateral investment treaty, had already secured earlier rulings from the same arbitration panel ordering Ecuador to prevent enforcement until further notice.

Hewitt Pate, the company’s vice president, was quoted as saying in the release that Chevron is open to “constructive discussion” with the Ecuadorian government to resolve the arbitration proceedings, adding that “rejecting the fraudulent claims and misconduct of the corrupt American plaintiffs’ lawyers is the best way to end the harm they are causing to the people and reputation of Ecuador.”

Chevron also said it “welcomes the constructive steps that Ecuador has recently taken, such as the announcement that (state oil company) Petroecuador will remediate sites impacted by oil production” and the acknowledgement that The Hague tribunal’s award applies to all branches of the Ecuadorian government.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys, meanwhile, released their own statement Friday saying the ruling “violates international law and will have little or no impact on any potential enforcement action against the oil giant in countries around the world.”

“This arbitration panel has just lost the last remnants of its legitimacy by trying to order a sovereign nation to violate its own constitution and quash the legal claims of citizens who are literally dying off in the rainforest due to Chevron’s pollution,” Karen Hinton, the U.S. spokesperson for plaintiffs who have won two judgments against the company in Ecuador, said.

“The latest order will have no legal impact in Ecuador or in any country around the world that observes the rule of law,” Hinton added. “The United States would never abide by such a ruling, nor will Ecuador or any other country that has a system based on due process of law.”

Ecuador’s Attorney General’s Office said in a statement that the arbitration panel ordered Chevron to deposit a $50 million bond to cover the costs Ecuador may incur in fulfilling its obligations under the arbitration ruling.

Attorney General Diego Garcia, for his part, said the “interim award is a procedural measure” that has no bearing on the fundamental issues in the case.

It is therefore up to Ecuador’s “judicial branch and the various organs of the Ecuadorian government to determine their respective obligations under international law.”

Because Chevron has no assets in Ecuador, the 47 named plaintiffs in the case, representing some 30,000 Amazon peasants and Indians. Indians affected by oil pollution in northeastern Ecuador, will seek to collect damages in countries where the company does have operations, plaintiffs’ attorney Pablo Fajardo said.

A court in the northeastern Ecuadorian city of Lago Agrio last year found Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001, guilty of causing irreversible environmental damage in a 480,000-hectare (1,850-sq.-mile) area of the Amazon rainforest and blamed it for serious illnesses and deaths suffered by local inhabitants from toxic waste.

An appeals court in that same province upheld the verdict earlier this year, ordering Chevron to pay $9.5 billion in remediation costs and plaintiff damages and an additional $8.6 billion for refusing to apologize to the affected communities.

Chevron has since appealed the case to the National Court of Justice in Quito – Ecuador’s highest tribunal.

It also is attempting to block plaintiffs’ attempts to collect on the damages award with the proceedings in The Hague and has brought legal action in a U.S. federal court in New York against the Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ representatives for violations of the federal racketeering statute.

Chevron maintains that the adverse rulings in Ecuador were marred by fraud and that they ignored the fact that a previous government in the late 1990s had certified Texaco’s clean-up efforts and released it from liability from any future claims.

Among other accusations of fraud, Chevron alleges in the racketeering case in New York that a court-appointed expert’s report, which estimated the cost of cleaning up the area of northeastern Ecuador affected by the dumping of toxic waste at $27 billion, was drawn up in conjunction with the plaintiffs and therefore corrupted.

During much of the period from 1964-1990, Texaco was the operator of a consortium that drilled in that area of Ecuador’s northeast and which also included Petroecuador as majority owner.

The pollution case was initially filed in New York in 1993, but Chevron succeeded in having it moved from the United States to Ecuador in 2003, four years before President Rafael Correa came to power amid voter anger at corruption and traditional politicians.

But Chevron has maintained in recent years that the case has become politicized under the leftist Correa and that it cannot receive a fair trial.

Although the oil company maintains that Texaco was cleared of any liability for damages after remediating its share of environmental impacts, plaintiffs say that agreement with the government of the time did not release it from third-party claims and that Chevron is reneging on its pledge to abide by whatever decision was handed down by Ecuadorian courts.

Chevron says on its Web site that Petroecuador should be the target of local communities’ legal action, noting that Texaco ceased operating in Ecuador in 1992 and that the state oil firm has been “the sole and exclusive owner and operator of greatly expanded operations in the area from (that year) to the present.”

Source: Latin American Herald Tribune

Chevron Paid Thousands To Influence Government Trade Talks

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–February 24, 2012.  Chevron Corp. paid thousands of dollars to sponsor an exclusive corporate reception today in Washington, DC, which will be attended by foreign ambassadors and U.S. state governors, in an effort to influence ongoing talks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  This influence peddling occurs on the heels of Chevron’s latest attempt to evade justice in a historic Ecuadorian Amazon contamination case by using extreme foreign investor rights in a little-known investment treaty—rights which would be expanded to eight new countries under the TPP.

Last Friday, Chevron used this arcane provision in the U.S. Ecuador Bi-Lateral Trade Agreement (BIT) to ask a secret foreign tribunal to allow them to avoid complying with a court judgment to pay $18 billion in environmental cleanup costs. The controversial legal instrument, known as ‘investor-state’ enforcement, allows corporations to sue nations to avoid regulations and potentially even overturn national court rulings. After 18 years of litigation in U.S. and Ecuadorian courts, Chevron was ordered to pay $18 billion to cover the cleanup costs in the Amazonian region of Lago Agrio. For over three decades of oil drilling in Ecuador’s Amazon, Chevron dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into waterways, left toxic pits of sludge in the open air and created a humanitarian crisis that affected thousands of local people.

“Chevron won’t pay to clean up the 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste it deliberately dumped in the Ecuadorian Amazon, which has resulted in a human health crisis for the people living in the region. But it will pay thousands to lobby state leaders and ambassadors to extend its extreme investor rights, and continue to evade justice elsewhere,” said Ginger Cassady, campaign director at Rainforest Action Network. “The expansion of the ‘investor-state’ system to eight more countries would allow companies like Chevron to continue to disregard the environment and public health, knowing they have this trade provision to protect them against liability.”

“Chevron’s own misuse of ‘investor-state’ arbitration is proof that this system should not be allowed in any new trade deal, despite what corporate lobbyists for Chevron or Phillip Morris may say,” said Robert Collier, Corporate Campaigns Director for Amazon Watch. “Today it’s the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest inhabitants who are getting the shaft from the investor-state system. Tomorrow, it may be U.S. environmental protections and court rulings that are vetoed by these international corporate star chambers, which is probably why Chevron sees sponsorship of the Trans-Pacific Partnership event as such a great opportunity.”

The TPP is being negotiated behind closed doors. Members of the press, the public and even elected officials in Congress are forbidden to see any of the draft agreement. However, the process is open to 600 official U.S. corporate “trade advisors,” including the companies sponsoring Friday’s soiree. The next round of the talks will be in Melbourne Australia the first week of March.

BACKGROUND

Chevron- Ecuador Case:

In 2002, to avoid a trial in U.S. federal court, Chevron selected Ecuador as the venue to resolve the legal claims of indigenous groups and farmer communities affected by the company’s oil operations in the Amazon region of that country. Chevron operated in Ecuador from 1964 to 1992 under the Texaco brand; during this time it admitted to dumping more than 16 billion gallons of toxic “water of formation” into the streams and rivers used by local inhabitants for their drinking water, decimating indigenous groups and causing dramatically increased rates of cancer.

In 2011, after conducting an eight-year trial that generated over 220,000 pages of evidence, the Ecuador court ordered Chevron to pay $18 billion for a clean-up.  An Ecuadorian appellate court affirmed the decision on January 3, 2012.  Anticipating an adverse judgment, Chevron had stripped its assets from Ecuador.  Its executives vowed never to pay despite having promised U.S. courts that it would abide by the decision as a condition of moving the trial to Ecuador.

Arbitration as Escape Hatch:

Having lost on the merits, Chevron sought to escape its liability by commencing a private arbitration to shift the clean-up costs to Ecuador’s government.  Essentially, Chevron – one of the wealthiest corporations on the planet with revenues of $240 billion in 2011 – sought a taxpayer-funded bailout in Ecuador where the per capita income is $4,000 per annum.  In other words, it wants the victims of its contamination to pay for the clean-up of their ancestral lands – sort of like executing someone before a firing squad and sending their family an invoice for the bullets.

U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty:

The tool for Chevron’s latest maneuver is to convene a secret investment arbitration panel under the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty, or BIT.  The U.S.-Ecuador BIT allows U.S. investors to seek monetary damages from the government of Ecuador if they can show unfair treatment.  In this case, Chevron has turned the treaty on its head to use it as a tool to try to immunize itself from liability in a private litigation.  Further, the BIT should not even be available to Chevron given that it took effect in 1997, five years after the oil company abandoned its Ecuador operations.  Interestingly, Chevron has retained as a consultant to its legal team the former Ecuador foreign minister (Benjamin Ortiz) who negotiated the BIT that the company now uses to evade its legal obligations.

The investor arbitration is a grossly unfair process.  The panel of three arbitrators – all private sector lawyers – meet in secret.  They reap enormous sums of money so they are incentivized to assert “jurisdiction” over any claim, regardless of how trivial or abusive.  Members of the panel claim the outrageous power to override decisions of any public court system of any sovereign nation.  Rules prohibit third parties who are the most affected (such as the rainforest communities) from even appearing.  Chevron essentially gets a private “court” where it has no effective opposition.  In reality, the arbitration panel in this instance is functioning as a “kangaroo court” that violates any notion of due process and flouts the fundamental human rights of thousands of Ecuadorians to seek legal redress for the contamination.

Last Friday, the secret ‘investor-state’ tribunal ordered the Ecuadorian government to stop its courts from enforcing the $18 billion penalty. Essentially, the tribunal demanded that the Ecuadorian executive branch violate its own constitution and tell the independent judiciary to stop enforcement. This would be like President Obama telling the Supreme Court not to rule on something.

Source: Enews Park Forest

SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer. 

Editorial: Selvavidasinfronteras.org

Selvavidasinfronteras.wordpress.com
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~ by FSVSF Admin on 27 February, 2012.

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