Lawsuits Target Energy Giants: Ecuador — Aguinda v. Texaco

By Jennifer Huang | World Power I: Business & Law

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Aguinda v. Texaco, a class-action suit brought in November 1993 in New York by approximately 25,000 Indians from eight tribes, was one of the first cases to use the Alien Tort Claims Act against an American petroleum company for environmental damage abroad. The case has been consolidated with another suit, Jota v. Texaco, which was filed on similar grounds by Peruvians living downstream on the Napo River from the drilling operations. The suit alleges that from 1972 to 1992 Texaco Petroleum Company (TexPet) in Ecuador dumped an estimated 30 billion gallons of toxic waste — including benzene, mercury and lead, much of it in hundreds of unlined pools throughout the rainforest. In the complaint, plaintiffs say the pollution jeopardizes “their very existence as a people” by killing livestock and fish, and causing cancer, skin rashes, spontaneous abortions and other effects. Lawyers estimate cleanup costs to be over $1 billion.