ChevronTexaco Faces Oil Pollution Trial in Ecuador

One of the biggest oil pollution trials in history will get underway tomorrow in Ecuador, pitting oil giant ChevronTexaco against 30,000 residents of the Amazon rainforest who charge that a Texaco subsidiary dumped huge amounts of oily waste in their homeland from 1971 to 1992. The Ecuadorians say the company’s pollution caused cancer, skin diseases, and other ailments and contributed to destruction of a biologically diverse area that’s home to indigenous communities and peasant settlers. Texaco dumped oil wastes into hundreds of unlined pits in the region during the ’70s and ’80s and maintains that this was a generally accepted operating practice. An Ecuadorian court will determine whether ChevronTexaco has to clean up the pits and contaminated swamps and rivers, and the court’s ruling will be enforceable in the U.S. Some say the case could change how multinational corporations do business throughout Latin America.