SAN RAMON, Calif., Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A $17 billion lawsuit against Chevron for environmental damage in Ecuador is significant but probably unenforceable, an energy analyst said from New York.
An Ecuadorian judge ruled that Chevron needed to pay $17 billion in fines and damages from an 18-year-old case involving waste discharges in the Amazon River basin, Bloomberg News reports.
The lawsuit concerns oil company Texaco's work in the country from 1964 to 1992. Chevron bought the company in 2001.
The court said Chevron must hand over another 10 percent of the value of the penalty to the Amazon Defense Coalition, a group representing the plaintiffs in the case.
Pablo Fajardo, an Ecuadorian lawyer challenging Chevron, said in a statement the judgment "affirms" that Chevron was engaged in the "intentional and unlawful contamination of Ecuador's rainforest."
Chevron accused the plaintiffs of "leading a fraudulent litigation" against the company and blames the Ecuadorean government for influencing the court in the case.
Chevron in a statement said it didn't think the case was enforceable and pledged "to see that the perpetrators of this fraud are held accountable for their misconduct."
The oil company said it cleaned up part of the oil fields in Ecuador but was absolved from additional claims when Ecuador's state-owned oil company PetroEcuador took control over Texaco operations in 1992.
Mark Gilman, an energy analyst at Benchmark Co. LLC, told Bloomberg the case doesn't amount to much.
"It's probably unenforceable," he said. "I wouldn't want to say $8 billion is insignificant in any way, shape or form for Chevron, because it's not, but given the lack of local assets, Ecuador is going to have difficulty enforcing this."