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Chevron-Ecuador arbitration panel set: activists
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 9, 2012

Chevron and the Ecuadoran government agreed to create an arbitration panel to review a $9.5 billion judgment against the oil giant for damage to the Amazon rainforest, activists and the company said Thursday.

The activists, who oppose the measure, said the move uses a controversial private enforcement procedure and could set a dangerous precedent by potentially cutting the award.

A statement by the groups Rainforest Action Network, Public Citizen and Amazon Watch said a panel of experts would meet this weekend in Washington.

Aaron Page, a US lawyer who has represented indigenous Ecuadorans in the environmental damage case, said the panel would consider whether it has jurisdiction under the US-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Agreement.

The groups said the arbitration could "direct Ecuador to interfere in its judiciary system."

"We reject the process, it is a very dangerous precedent," said Rob Collier of Amazon Watch.

Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson said however that the arbitration hearing was called "to address Ecuador's failure and refusal to comply with the Tribunal's interim measures order directing Ecuador to take all measures at its disposal to prevent enforcement of the Lago (Agrio region) judgment, which the Tribunal recently converted into an even more powerful interim award."

Lori Wallach of Public Citizen said this type of arbitration is normally used in cases of nationalization and that the move is an effort to expand jurisdiction.

According to the activists, the panel will include three members -- a US expert on international law chosen by Chevron, a British professor from Oxford chosen by Ecuador, and a third person chosen jointly who is a member of a British law firm.

Under the court decision announced last year, Chevron must make a public apology to the victims or pay double the amount of the judgment for environmental damage allegedly caused by oil operations in the Ecuadoran jungle between 1964 and 1990 by Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001.

The judgment -- $8.64 billion plus a 10 percent fine -- is the highest ever against an oil company for environmental damage.

Chevron has said it is pursuing efforts at an international tribunal and in the US courts to prevent enforcement of the ruling.

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