This week, as BP accepts responsibility for environmental damage and loss of life resulting from its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Chevron continues to dodge accountability for the devastation it has caused in the Amazon. BP’s tragic spill is the largest in U.S. history, but may pale in comparison to the disaster caused in Ecuador.
As previous blog posts here have highlighted, Chevron has been engaged in a long-running battle over enormous environmental and human health damage caused by oil drilling in Ecuador. After years of litigation, an Ecuadorian court last year imposed an $18 billion judgment on Chevron for deliberately dumping toxic waste into Amazon waterways used by indigenous groups for drinking water and causing massive destruction to the rainforest. Rather than accept responsibility, Chevron has engaged in all out war against anyone who has dared to be involved in the effort to hold the company accountable. When the $18 billion judgment came down, Chevron responded by suing more than 50 people who were involved in the suit, including the indigenous plaintiffs and their counsel, claiming they were part of a massive conspiracy to defraud the oil giant. Chevron has vowed it will never pay.
Meanwhile, this week, BP has agreed to plead guilty to a slew of federal criminal charges, including 11 counts of manslaughter and felony obstruction of Congress, and will pay $4.5 billion in criminal penalties for its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP’s fine is the largest criminal fine in U.S. history, but it is not the end of what BP will pay. Notably, the settlement does not include civil claims that may arise under the Clean Water Act and other legislation, ongoing private claims, nor state claims for economic loss. Some estimate BP could end up paying as much as $60 billion.
On Thursday at a new conference in New Orleans, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “I hope this sends a clear message to those who would engage in this wanton misconduct that there will be a penalty.”
But what if, instead of a foreign company operating in the U.S., you are a U.S. company operating in the Amazon?