Ecuadorans can pursue Chevron suit

A lawsuit by a group of Ecuadorans to seize Chevron’s Canadian assets can proceed in the country, a Canadian court ruled Tuesday.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario said the 47 villagers have the right to pursue Chevron’s Canada assets. The decision reverses a May 1 ruling that stated the company did not have any assets in Canada.

A court in the South American country in 2011 found the company liable for about three decades of soil and water pollution near oil wells that ruined the health and livelihoods of Amazon rain-forest dwellers. Since then, Ecuadoran farmers and fishermen have been trying to collect $19 billion in environmental damages from San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron, the world’s third-largest oil company. The award was reduced to $9.5 billion from $19 billion Nov. 12 by the National Court of Justice, Ecuador’s highest tribunal.

“Even before the Ecuadorean judgment was released, Chevron, speaking through a spokesman, stated that Chevron intended to contest the judgment if Chevron lost,” Canadian judges James MacPherson, Eileen Gillese and C. William Hourigan said in Tuesday’s ruling.

The judges noted in the ruling that a Chevron spokesman had said: “We’re going to fight this until hell freezes over. And then we’ll fight it out on the ice.”

Chevron’s wish is granted, the judges said.

“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,” the ruling states.

— Bloomberg News

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