Occidental lawsuit (re Achuar communities contamination, Peru)

Achuar-oil-pollution-credit-EarthRights-InternationalIn 2007, residents from five Achuar communities living along the Corrientes River in Peru filed a lawsuit in California state court against Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum.  They alleged that Occidental contaminated their territory and water sources by inappropriately managing toxic products at one of their oil fields, between 1971 and 2000.  The plaintiffs claimed that the contamination endangered their health, causing premature deaths and birth defects, as well as detrimentally affecting the livelihoods and environment of their communities.  Occidental denied the claims.

In 2008, after the case had been removed to federal district court, the court dismissed the case ruling that it should be heard in Peru.  The plaintiffs appealed, and in 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision.  After several appeals and rehearing requests, in 2013 the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Occidental.  The case then reverted to the district court in Los Angeles for further proceedings.

In 2013, the parties reached an out of court settlement that was only revealed in March 2015, due to a confidentiality clause.  The plaintiffs stated that, through a trust, Occidental “will provide assistance for community development projects for the benefit of these five Achuar communities. All parties are satisfied with the resolution of this dispute.”

 

- “US Oil Major Settles Out Of Court In Amazon Pollution Case”, Andy Tully, Oilprice.com, 9 Mar 2015
- “Indigenous Peruvians win Amazon pollution payout from US oil giant”, Dan Collyns, Guardian (UK), 5 Mar 2015
- “Peruvian Oil Spill Case Makes New Waves in U.S”, Tim Hull, Courthouse News Service, 31 May 2012
- [ES] “Demanda indios peruanos contra Occidental se tramitará en EEUU”, Reuters, 7 de diciembre de 2010
- “LA Court Can Hear Peruvian Case Against Oil Giant”, Noaki Schwartz, Associated Press, 6 Dec 2010
- “Rumble in the jungle: Amazon pollution lawsuit leaves L.A. for Peru”, Lisa Richardson, on Los Angeles Times, 18 Apr 2008
- “Peruvians sue oil giant over Amazon pollution”, Dan Glaister, Guardian (UK), 11 May 2007
- [ES] “Indígenas peruanos demandan a la petrolera Oxy por contaminación”, EFE, 11 de mayo de 2007
- “Peru: Indigenous Community to Take Oil Company to Court”, Milagros Salazar, Inter Press Service, 21 Aug 2006
- [ES] “Petrolera podría ser demandada por contaminación”, Milagros Salazar, Inter Press Service, 16 de agosto de 2006

Occidental Petroleum:
- “Engagement in practice

EarthRights International [Plaintiffs’ representatives]:
- “Peruvian Indigenous Communities Pleased with Settlement of Pollution Lawsuit Against Occidental Petroleum”, 5 Mar 2015
- “Maynas v. Occidental
- [ES] “Comunidades indígenas peruanas satisfechas con el acuerdo de la demanda contra la contaminación de Occidental Petroleum”, 5 de marzo de 2015
- "Indigenous Peruvians Win Appeal in Federal Lawsuit Against Occidental Petroleum for Contaminating Amazon Rainforest, Poisoning Communities”, AmazonWatch & EarthRights International, 6 Dec 2010
- “Indigenous Achuar Face Off Against Occidental Petroleum in Amazon Pollution Case”, 8 Mar 2010
- “Indigenous Peruvians Sue Occidental Petroleum”, 10 May 2007

- “Carijano, et al. v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation – Order”, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 31 May 2012
- “Maynas Carijano, et al. v. Occidental Petroleum Corp., et al. - Order and Opinion”, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 1 Jun 2011
- “Maynas Carijano, et al. v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation, et al. – Opinion”, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 6 Dec 2010
- “Carijano, et al. v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation – Order”, US District Court Central District of California, 15 Apr 2008

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Author: Olivier Petitjean, Observatoire des multinationales (France)

« Des indigènes péruviens gagnent une bataille juridique contre une multinationale pétrolière », 12 mars 2015

Le peuple Achuar d’Amazonie péruvienne a accepté un règlement à l’amiable des poursuites judiciaires qu’il avait intenté contre la firme pétrolière américaine Occidental Petroleum (Oxy). Les indigènes avaient déposé plainte aux États-Unis en 2007 suite à la grave pollution occasionnée par les activités d’Oxy sur leur territoire depuis les années 1970. Les termes précis de l’accord sont confidentiels, mais les représentants Achuar ont indiqué d’Oxy s’était engagée à contribuer aux fonds de développement communautaire qu’ils ont mis en place. Pour leurs avocats, il s’agit d’un précédent historique qui pourrait faire avancer d’autres procès similaires aux États-Unis…[Fait aussi référence à Pluspetrol]

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Article
5 March 2015

Indigenous Peruvians win Amazon pollution payout from US oil giant

Author: Dan Collyns, Guardian (UK)

Members of the indigenous Achuar tribe from the Peruvian Amazon have won an undisclosed sum from Occidental Petroleum in an out-of-court settlement after a long-running legal battle in the US courts. They sued the company in 2007, alleging it knowingly caused pollution which caused premature deaths, birth defects and damaged their habitat. It is the first time a company from the United States has been sued in a US court for pollution it caused in another country, Marco Simons, the legal director of EarthRights International, which represented the Achuar people in the lawsuit, said. It set a “precedent” which he said will be “significant for future cases and has already been cited by other courts in the United States”… The funds provided by the company through a trust will be used for health, education and nutrition projects run by a collective of five Achuar communities…that filed the lawsuit…[Also refers to Pluspetrol]

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Author: EarthRights International (ERI) y Amazon Watch

“Comunidades indígenas peruanas satisfechas con el acuerdo de la demanda contra la contaminación de Occidental Petroleum” – 5 de marzo de 2015

Los demandantes indígenas Achuar de la cuenca del río Corrientes en la Amazonía peruana hacen la siguiente declaración…en una conferencia de prensa en Lima, Perú…“Las partes se complacen en confirmar que llegaron a un acuerdo sobre las cuestiones en litigio. Bajo el acuerdo, cuyos términos son confidenciales, Oxy proveerá fondos para que estas cinco comunidades Achuar lleven a cabo proyectos de desarrollo comunitario en su beneficio. Todas las partes están satisfechas con la resolución de la disputa.” Earth Rights International (ERI) patrocinó a los demandantes ante la Corte Federal del Distrito Central de California en Los Ángeles en 2007. El caso culminó en un proceso cerrado y confidencial, el 16 de septiembre de 2013, pero las partes no han anunciado el acuerdo hasta ahora. Los fondos aportados por Oxy a través de un fideicomiso financiarán proyectos de desarrollo comunitario llevadas a cabo por el Fondo de Desarrollo de Alto Corrientes (FODAC)…un colectivo de las cinco comunidades indígenas Achuar que participaron en el caso…La demanda argumenta que la empresa ha vertido subproductos tóxicos y derramó cantidades significativas de petróleo, contaminando el territorio Achuar y el agua, causando muertes prematuras y defectos de nacimiento así como otros problemas de salud…

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Article
5 March 2015

Peruvian Indigenous Communities Pleased with Settlement of Pollution Lawsuit Against Occidental Petroleum

Author: EarthRights International

Indigenous Achuar plaintiffs from the Corrientes River Basin in the Peruvian Amazon release the following statement concerning their lawsuit against Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) for alleged contamination of Achuar communities…“The parties are pleased to confirm a mutual settlement of the claims in the litigation. Under the settlement, the terms of which are confidential, Oxy will provide assistance for community development projects for the benefit of these five Achuar communities. All parties are satisfied with the resolution of this dispute.”…Plaintiff Adolfina Garcia Sandi alleged that she lost her 11-year-old son after he consumed water from the contaminated river.  Other plaintiffs alleged that their children were the victims of widespread lead poisoning…After Oxy left Peru, residents from five indigenous Achuar communities…and Amazon Watch jointly sued Oxy in the United States. The suit claimed that the company had dumped toxic by-products and spilled significant quantities of oil, contaminating Achuar territory and water and causing premature deaths, birth defects, and other health problems…

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Article
31 May 2012

Peruvian Oil Spill Case Makes New Waves in U.S.

Author: Tim Hull, Courthouse News Service [USA]

Over the vehement objection of its chief judge, the 9th Circuit on Thursday declined to reconsider claims that Occidental Petroleum Company harmed the Peruvian rain forest. Amazon Watch and 25 members of the Achuar communities, who live along the Corrientes and Mascusari rivers in a remote part of the Peruvian rainforest, say Occidental used outdated and illegal methods for separating crude oil during three decades of oil production in the region between 1971 and 2000. Though the company knew that such environmental negligence contaminated rivers and made community members sick, it failed to warn the people, according to the complaint. But U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez dismissed the lawsuit when it was removed from Los Angeles County Superior Court...He found that Peru would have been a more a convenient forum for the claims. But the 9th Circuit later...revived the case in late 2010. On Thursday, the federal appeals court in Pasadena refused to convene a full, 11-judge panel to reconsider the issue.

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Article
31 May 2012

[PDF] Carijano, et al. v. Occidental Petroleum Corporation - Order

Author: US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

The panel unanimously voted to deny the petition for panel rehearing. Judges Wardlaw and Gould also voted to deny the petition for rehearing en banc and Judge Schroeder so recommended.

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Article
1 June 2011

Circuit Panel to Revisit Peruvian Drilling Suit [USA]

Author: Tim Hull, Courthouse News Service [USA]

A panel of 9th Circuit judges agreed...to revisit its decision to revive allegations that Occidental Petroleum Corp. polluted the Peruvian rainforest and its rivers during 30 years of intensive oil production. The federal appeals court in Pasadena granted Occidental Petroleum's petition for a panel rehearing. In December 2010, the panel said Occidental had failed to show that Peru was a more convenient forum for a trial than California. Dozens of indigenous plaintiffs and the California-based nonprofit Amazon Watch sued Occidental and a subsidiary in 2007, claiming the companies had used outdated and illegal methods for separating crude oil between 1971 and 2000. The plaintiffs...say Occidental's actions contaminated their rivers and made children and adults sick from lead and cadmium poisoning. Pollution also allegedly killed off fish and other animals used for food...Occidental...[argues] that the case should be tried in Peru, where the alleged actions occurred.

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1 June 2011

[PDF] Maynas Carijano, et al. v. Occidental Petroleum Corp., et al. - Order and Opinion

Author: US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

These cross-appeals arise from the petroleum and oil exploration operations conducted by defendant Occidental Peruana (“OxyPeru”), an indirect subsidiary of defendant Occidental Petroleum Corporation (collectively “Occidental”), along the Rio Corrientes in the northern region of Peru. Plaintiffs, 25 members of the Achuar indigenous group dependent for their existence upon the rainforest lands and waterways along the river…sued Occidental…for environmental contamination and release of hazardous waste…Occidental…successfully moved for dismissal on the ground that Peru is a more convenient forum…Because Occidental failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that Peru is a more convenient forum, and the district court gave insufficient weight to the strong presumption in favor of a domestic plaintiff’s choice of forum, the district court abused its discretion by dismissing the lawsuit without imposing mitigating conditions for the dismissal.

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Author: Reuters

Occidental Petroleum Corp debe defenderse en Estados Unidos por una demanda que la acusa de contaminar la selva peruana durante casi 30 años, determinó el lunes una corte federal de apelaciones. La demanda colectiva en representación de miembros de las comunidades indígenas Achuar acusa a Occidental de descargar millones de galones de derivados tóxicos del petróleo en cursos de agua en la selva del norte de Perú...Occidental...había convencido a una corte menor de que el caso debía litigarse en Perú. Pero la corte de apelaciones se mostró en desacuerdo...Los abogados de los demandantes calificaron el falló como "importante victoria" para los derechos de los indígenas...Occidental dijo que tiene "empatía" con los temas presentados por los Achuar, pero que "no hay datos creíbles" que indiquen impactos negativos en la salud de los indígenas resultantes de las operaciones de Oxy.

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Article
6 December 2010

Indigenous Peruvians Win Appeal in Federal Lawsuit Against Occidental Petroleum for Contaminating Amazon Rainforest, Poisoning Communities

Author: AmazonWatch & EarthRights International

Indigenous plaintiffs from the Peruvian Amazon won their appeal today in the landmark human rights and environmental contamination lawsuit against Occidental Petroleum (Oxy), as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the case should be heard in Los Angeles, Oxy's hometown. A district court judge had previously ruled that the case should be litigated in Peru…The lawsuit accuses Oxy of causing severe injuries by knowingly dumping a daily average of 850,000 barrels of toxic wastewater into the tropical rainforest inhabited by the indigenous Achuar people of northern Peru over a 30-year period…The plaintiffs allege that these outdated practices caused widespread lead and cadmium poisoning, among other health impacts.

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