by Nicholas A. Fromherz
As a student of environmental law, resident of the Andes, and former clerk for two federal judges, I have followed the Chevron-Ecuador case with increasing interest—and, of late, increasing concern. No matter which side we believe, it is clear that the people and ecology of Ecuador’s Lago Agrio region have been affected by the operations of Chevron (or, perhaps more accurately, those of predecessor Texaco and the state-owned Ecuadorian firm Petroecuador).
But that will always be the case with extractive industry—more important factors for purposes of litigation are to what extent and what, if anything, was done in the way of prevention and/or mitigation. This post will not attempt to answer those questions. More informed individuals and groups have offered a range of answers as to these very points (see here and here), and my own speculation on the matter would only add to what has become a morass of conflicting information.
Instead of analyzing the merits of the case, I would like to discuss two issues that have received less than complete coverage: (1) the unintended and unlikely consequences of Chevron’s effort to remove the case from U.S. federal court on grounds of forum non conveniens; and (2) the institutional and socio-political factors that must be considered when analyzing Chevron’s claims of judicial corruption by the Ecuadorian courts.