20 years ago this month, Petroecuador assumed operation of the Oriente oil fields from Texaco Petroleum. During this time, Petroecuador has generated more than $50 billion in oil revenue for the Republic.
This wealth has not come without a cost – Petroecuador’s operating and environmental record has been poor. More recently, however, it must be acknowledged that the company is trying to do better:
- In 2002, Petroecuador developed a remediation plan for its Oriente operations. In 2005, Petroecuador’s government-approved clean-up began.
- In 2007, Petroecuador reported that the remediation cost for the 370 pits within the former concession area is $31.45 million. So far, at least 86 reserve pits have been remediated.
- Petroecuador has stated that its goal is to complete all remediation work by the end of 2013.
This is good news and it is clear that Petroecuador has the ability, the expertise, and the responsibility to clean up the Oriente oil fields. And, most importantly, Petroecuador appears to have the government’s support.
But the American trial lawyers behind the Lago Agrio lawsuit have interfered with Petroecuador. They have opposed the company’s clean-up and petitioned the Lago Agrio court to halt Petroecuador’s work – not out of concern for the environment but for fear that Petroecuador’s remediation “is changing the case.”
The lawyers’ case has harmed Ecuador as well. The Lago Agrio trial has been corrupted by the very lawyers who initiated it. They have filed falsified expert reports with the court. They have submitted phony evidence. They have secretly colluded with court experts. This is the definition of fraud and it’s not only being perpetrated at the expense of Ecuador’s courts, but also Ecuador’s government and its citizens. Moreover, the trial has impacted Ecuador’s international reputation with respect to corruption and judicial fairness.
The Lago Agrio lawsuit and its lawyers are an impediment to the solutions the Oriente and its people deserve. It is time that the trial lawyers put their own financial interests aside. Texaco Petroleum fulfilled its obligations – now it’s time to let Petroecuador do the same.