Ecuadorians Seek Chevron Ruling

By Jeanneth Valdivieso, Associated Press
15 November 2006

A lawyer for indigenous groups suing Chevron Corp. said Monday the judge should skip further analysis of wells and rule on their charge that the U.S. oil giant never properly cleaned up toxic pollution in a swath of Amazon jungle.

"We have enough already to prove the case," Steven Donziger told The Associated Press. "A hundred percent of the sites inspected demonstrate sources of contamination left behind by Texaco," which merged with Chevron in 2001.

Donziger and dozens of local residents from this hamlet, 300 kilometers (186 miles) southwest of the capital Quito, huddled around Judge German Yanez as he presided over inspection No. 46 to collect water and soil samples.

Donziger said they were waiting for Yanez to rule on a motion to skip the remaining 64 inspections around the jungle.

He accused Chevron, which merged with Texaco in 2001, of trying to "indefinitely delay" the trial process.

Chevron's attorney, Alejandro Callejas, denied any foot-dragging, saying his clients want "to finish this as soon as possible, but with the truth, not with manipulation."

The ongoing oil-contamination lawsuit, brought by 88 people representing 30,000 poor jungle settlers and Amazon Indians, opened in Ecuador in October 2003 after a decade of wending through U.S. courts.

The plaintiffs claim $6 billion in damages to their jungle homeland. They allege that Texaco cut costs between 1972 and 1990 by dumping 70 billion liters (18.5 billion gallons) of oily wastewater brought up by drilling.

Chevron has denied the allegations, saying Texaco followed Ecuadorean environmental laws and spent $40 million under a clean-up agreement it made with the Ecuadorean government in 1995. The government certified the clean-up three years later.

A system of holding pits was turned over to state-run Petroecuador, which the plaintiff's lawyers say continued to contaminate the land.

"We have already demonstrated that Texaco and Petroecuador were partners and that Texaco has fulfilled its part," Callejas said.