LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Keep promise to Ecuadorians

Your editorial “Banana Republic v. Chevron” (Dec. 27) is a striking illustration of bias in assessing this important case. The article ignores how, for two decades, Chevron has dodged accountability for despoiling a huge swath of Amazon rainforest and devastating the lives of thousands of Ecuadorians and five indigenous tribes.

Chevron does not dispute that it dumped 16 billion gallons of “produced water” (containing petroleum, heavy metals and other contaminants) into the very streams used by local residents for drinking and bathing. It does not dispute that it opened and abandoned hundreds of sludge-filled waste ponds that still scar the Amazon region to this day.

Chevron cannot legitimately contest the rigor of the eight-year proceeding in Ecuador, in which the court received more than 100 expert reports from both sides and considered hundreds of hours of witness testimony and legal argument. The court’s detailed 188-page decision fully rebuts the absurd notion, repeated in your editorial, that the contamination has been “taken care of” or is under control. The court’s final calculation of damages is modest in light of comparable damages figures in cases like the BP Deepwater Horizon incident (which, unlike Chevron’s deliberate contamination in Ecuador, was an accident).

Ultimately, your editorial bemoans the fact that Chevron is “distract[ed]” by the litigation from “doing its job.” No doubt. As perhaps any other management team in corporate America would instantly realize, the way out of such distraction is for the company to come to terms with its unfortunate history, make amends and move forward on a positive note. A decade ago, Chevron made a public promise to U.S. courts that it would abide by the judgment of Ecuador if the case would be tried in that country. Courts around the world are now seeing that this promise is kept.

AARON PAGE

U.S. attorney for the Ecuadorians

Washington

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