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22.10.03

Ecuadorian Law

Ecuadoreans sue U.S. oil company over pollution in Amazon

A decade after Texaco pulled out of the Amazon jungle, the U.S. petroleum giant went on trial in a lawsuit filed on behalf of 30,000 poor Ecuadoreans who say the company's 20 years of drilling poisoned their homeland.

... The lawsuit alleges that Texaco took advantage of lax Ecuadorean environmental standards to cut costs by pouring wastewater brought to the surface by drilling into some 350 open pits instead of reinjecting it deep underground.

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


The claim is that Ecuador's laws allowed Texaco to do something bad. And Texaco's defense is that the law allowed it to do what it did. I'm glad we can agree on the facts, then. I don't know much about the Ecuadorian justice system, but the way the article puts it makes it sound like the plaintiffs' case is weak on legal grounds. That's the tricky thing about the law system -- it explicitly defines the terms you're allowed to debate something on, so that it becomes difficult to go to court over something that was clearly wrong if there's no relevant law. In the abstract, this is a good thing -- it's beneficial to be able to know with some certainty what standards you'll be subject to, in order to plan your actions. But it's problematic when right and legal don't line up.

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