Chevron lawsuit attorneys
earn Goldman environmental award

Written by FCJ Editor. Posted in News

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Published on April 14, 2008 with No Comments

By Caitilin McAdoo

April 14, 2008

Two Ecuadorian attorneys have been awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for their efforts to force San Ramon-based oil giant Chevron to clean up contaminated land and waterways in the northeastern Amazon.

Pablo Fajardo Mendoza and Luis Yanza co-founded the Amazon Defense Front and organized 30,000 inhabitants of the northeastern Ecuadorian Amazon in a class-action lawsuit first filed against Texaco in 1993, according to the Goldman Environmental Prize, a San Francisco-based foundation that honors grassroots environmentalists with annual awards.

Fajardo and Yanza have alleged that between 1964 and 1990 Texaco dumped nearly 17 million gallons of crude oil and 20 billion gallons of contaminated drilling wastewater into more than 1,000 unlined open pits and directly into waterways, according to the foundation.

Plaintiffs have also alleged that prolonged exposure to the contamination has led to major health problems for people living near the now-abandoned drilling sites and rates of cancer for people living in surrounding villages are seven times higher than in the rest of the country’s population. Residents also suffer higher rates of skin disease, respiratory ailments and reproductive disorders, according to the foundation. The 1993 class-action lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of residents of 80 villages, was dismissed by a New York state superior court judge in 1996.

Chevron acquired Texaco and the company’s alleged liability in 2001. In 2002, the U.S. Court of Appeals sent the case to Ecuador.

In May 2003, Fajardo’s team filed a civil lawsuit in Ecuador in an effort to force Chevron to pay for a complete cleanup of the region, rehabilitation of the plant and animal life and to monitor and help improve the health of local residents, according to the foundation.

A recent report estimated damages to be between $8.3 billion and $16 billion, according to the foundation.

Chevron, meanwhile, has claimed that Fajardo and Yanza have “twisted the facts” and that the attorneys have sued the company for financial gain only.

Chevron has also alleged that Petroecuador, Ecuador’s national oil company, is responsible for polluting the area, not Texaco. The oil giant has accused Fajardo and Yanza of deceiving the Goldman Environmental Prize foundations and trying to block cleanup efforts and “extended miserable conditions of those they say they are defending.”

The $150,000 Goldman Environmental Prize will be presented to Fajardo and Yanza along with five other environmental activists during a ceremony Monday to be held at the San Francisco Opera House.

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earn Goldman environmental award
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