Those of us who have seen the film documentary “Crude” were heartened yesterday as a court in Ecuador ordered the oil giant Chevron to pay $8.6 billion for dumping billions of gallons of toxic oil waste into Ecuador’s rain forest. The judgment is one of the largest ever imposed for environmental contamination in any court.
However, we are not at all surprised to hear that Chevron said it would appeal the ruling. Heck, ExxonMobil robo-appealed the Valdez judgment, consistently postponing the payment of damages until just a couple of years ago, After almost 30 years, they were finally forced into submission, but not before pulling a last-minute maneuver to get the the toll reduced to a minute fraction of the original judgment.
Is there any reason to expect that Chevron will behave any differently? That cases have radically different features in that Chevron’s acts were not accidental; they were willful acts of criminality, deliberately and brazenly perpetrated in an effort to reduce costs save against a people whom Chevron (then Texaco) presumed too weak to defend themselves. One might argue, Chevron might be well-advised to get this atrocity out of the news and safely behind them so that they might have the opportunity to begin to rebuild some sort of credibility as decent corporate citizens.
But that won’t happen. I would would have found it astonishing to hear that Chevron had taken a different tack here. And it will be equally amazing if they don’t ultimately enjoy a similar level of success in abusing the legal system until this judgment is overturned or reduced to a tiny sliver of the $8.6 billion.
It’s shameful stuff. But sadly, it’s the new standard.