Ecuadorans end Chevron pollution lawsuit in Canada

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Indigenous Ecuadoran villagers hoping to make oil giant Chevron pay for pollution in the country’s rainforest have formally withdrawn a lawsuit in Canada.

Patricio Salazar, a lawyer for some of the plaintiffs, said in a statement on Tuesday his clients made the decision after “much soul searching” and were considering their options.

The move comes three months after Canada’s Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the Amazon villagers, effectively bringing their legal action in that country to the end of the road.

The villagers were seeking to enforce an Ecuadoran court ruling in 2011 ruling, which awarded them $9.5 billion in compensation for pollution of native lands by American oil company Texaco between 1964 and 1992. Chevron later acquired Texaco making it the target.

But courts in the United States and The Hague have said the Ecuadoran court decision was obtained through bribery and corruption.

“Chevron is pleased that the promoters of the fraudulent scheme have apparently realized that no legitimate court would enforce the judgment that they purchased in Ecuador,” Chevron General Counsel R. Hewitt Pate said in a statement on Monday.

Chevron said Texaco spent $40 million on environmental cleanup in the 1990s, and authorities released the company of any further obligations before Chevron acquired it in 2001.

Because Chevron has no assets in Ecuador that can be seized, the villagers attempted to collect payment through lawsuits in the United States, Canada, Brazil and Argentina.

But in 2017, an Ontario appellate court held that Chevron’s Canadian subsidiary was legally distinct from the US parent, putting its assets legally beyond the Ecuadorians’ reach.

A court in Toronto dismissed the case on Friday and ordered the plaintiffs to pay Chevron’s legal costs.