December 19, 2013
Lago Agrio oil field in Ecuador. Image adapted from Bing Maps
On Tuesday Ontario's Court of Appeal ruled that 47 Ecuadorean plaintiffs can proceed with an effort to seize Chevron's Canadian assets. The decision reversed an earlier ruling that the oil company didn't have any assets in Canada.
In the ruling, the three judge panel said the Ecuadorean community members have waited long enough to see the judgement enforced.
“Even before the Ecuadorean judgment was released, Chevron, speaking through a spokesman, stated that Chevron intended to contest the judgment if Chevron lost,” said the judges. “After all these years, the Ecuadorean plaintiffs deserve to have recognition and enforcement of the Ecuadorean judgment heard on the merits in an appropriate jurisdiction. At this juncture, Ontario is that jurisdiction.”
Chevron is expected to appeal the ruling.
The case stems from large-scale pollution caused by oil operations in the Ecuadorean Amazon. Chevron maintains that its subsidiary's 1990's agreement with the Ecuadorean government absolved it of paying for damages, but in 2011 an Ecuadorean court ruled otherwise, ordering the company to pay $19 billion to affected communities. The award was cut in half last month.
Efforts to enforce the judgement have shifted to Canada because Chevron no longer has any assets in Ecuador. The plaintiffs are also pursuing Chevron assets in Brazil and Argentina.