Skip to content
Subscriber Only

A Possible Overture From Ecuador in the Chevron Pollution Mess

An employee of state-owned Petroecuador working on environmental cleansing operations at a 30-year old oil spillage at Rumipamba commune in 2011
An employee of state-owned Petroecuador working on environmental cleansing operations at a 30-year old oil spillage at Rumipamba commune in 2011Photograph by Rodrigo Buendia/AFP via Getty Images

One of the biggest environmental controversies brewing anywhere in the world right now concerns oil pollution in tiny Ecuador. A federal judge in New York is poised to rule in coming months on an audacious attempt by Chevron to use American anti-racketeering law to snuff out a multibillion-dollar contamination judgment the company incurred in Ecuador in February 2011. Meanwhile, squads of plaintiffs’ lawyers are seeking to enforce the Ecuadorian verdict by grabbing Chevron assets in Canada, Argentina, and Brazil.

The far-flung legal war raises the question of what Ecuadorians think about the accusations and counter-accusations about the side-effects of industrialization in the Amazonian rainforest. After all, most of the benefits from oil production have flowed to Ecuador. (You read that correctly; we’ll come back to that point in a moment.) And all the nasty pollution has harmed the ecology and poor population near that country’s petroleum operations.