Ecuador court upholds $18 billion ruling against Chevron

LAGO AGRIO, Ecuador Tue Jan 3, 2012 6:25pm EST

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LAGO AGRIO, Ecuador (Reuters) - An Ecuadorean appeals court on Tuesday upheld a ruling that Chevron Corp should pay $18 billion in damages to plaintiffs who accused the U.S. oil giant of polluting the Amazon jungle and damaging their health.

A judge ordered Chevron to pay $8.6 billion in environmental damages last February, but the amount was more than doubled to about $18 billion because Chevron failed to make a public apology as required by the original ruling.

"We ratify the ruling of February 14 2011 in all its parts, including the sentence for moral reparation," said the ruling issued on Tuesday, which was obtained by Reuters.

Plaintiffs accused Texaco, which was bought by Chevron in 2001, of dumping oil-drilling waste in unlined pits, polluting the forest and causing illness and deaths among indigenous people. They appealed the original court ruling, claiming that more money would be needed for the cleanup.

Chevron had argued that Texaco cleaned up all waste pits for which it was responsible, and said that the Ecuadorean judge in the original case had ignored evidence of fraud on the part of the plaintiffs.

(Reporting by Victor Gomez; Writing by Eduardo Garcia; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Paul Simao)

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