Chevron fined $9.5 billion for Ecuador oil contamination

February 15, 2011 10:26

QUITO, Ecuador — An Ecuadorean judge ruled Monday in an epic environmental case that Chevron Corp. was responsible for oil drilling contamination in a wide swath of Ecuador's northern jungle and ordered the oil giant to pay $9.5 billion in damages and cleanup costs.

The amount — $8.6 billion plus a legally mandated 10 percent reparations fee — was far below the $27.3 billion award recommended by a court-appointed expert but appeared to be the highest damage award ever issued in an environmental lawsuit.

But whether the plaintiffs — including indigenous groups who say their hunting and fishing grounds in Amazon River headwaters were decimated by toxic wastewater that also raised the cancer rate — can collect remains to be seen.

In a statement, Chevron called the decision "illegitimate and unenforceable" and said it would appeal. It has long contended it could never get a fair trial in Ecuador and has removed all assets from this politically volatile Andean country, whose leftist president, Rafael Correa, had voiced support for the plaintiffs.

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