Oil giant faces legal action in US

U.S. oil giant Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) face a lawsuit in the US courts after they lost an appeal in the federal courts on Monday (December 6).

The company is accused by members of the indigenous Peruvian Achuar community of contaminating the Amazon Rainforest and poisoning communities there.

Oxy had originally convinced a district court judge to litigate the case in Peru, but the Ninth Circuit disagreed, allowing the plaintiffs to take the case to the federal court in the US.

The Ninth Circuit decision was based on the doubts that the Peruvian courts could satisfactorily handle the case, citing corruption and disorder in the Peruvian judiciary.

EarthRights International (ERI) represented the Achuar case at the appeal before the Ninth Circuit. ERI legal director Marco Simons said: “This is a major victory for the rights of indigenous peoples.

“Oxy will now face justice in the U.S. federal courts, rather than in a Peruvian legal system that has never compensated indigenous groups for environmental contamination.”

The Achuar accuse Oxy of causing severe injuries by dumping a daily average of 80,000 barrels of toxic wastewater into the tropical rainforest over a 30-year period.

They also accuse Oxy of inducing acid rain from gas flaring, and improperly storing waste in unlined pits.

The plaintiffs allege that these practices caused widespread lead and cadmium poisoning, among other serious health problems.

Amazon Watch has supported the Achuar’s case in court. Executive director, Atossa Soltani, said: “This ruling means that the Achuar will finally get their day in U.S. court and signals the end of the era when companies could destroy indigenous communities and their environment with impunity.”

The case was originally filled in May 2007.

Alison Brown

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