November 26, 2008 / 11:02 PM / 11 years ago

Expert asks Ecuador court to fine Chevron $27 billion

A Chevron tanker truck unloads gasoline into underground storage tanks in Burbank, Calfiornia, June 18, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

QUITO (Reuters) - An environmental expert told a court in Ecuador that oil company Chevron Corp should pay $27 billion in compensation for environmental damage in the country, the company said on Wednesday.

Chevron said in a statement that it rejected geologist Richard Cabrera’s revised damage estimate by saying his work “contains fabricated and erroneous evidence.” In April, Cabrera recommended to the court that the U.S. oil company should pay up to $16 billion in damages.

The lawsuit, which peasants and Indians in Ecuador brought in the early 1990s, contends that Texaco, which Chevron bought in 2001, polluted the jungle and damaged their health by dumping 18 billion gallons (68 billion liters) of contaminated water from 1972 to 1992.

Chevron questioned Cabrera’s independence and charges the plaintiffs of helping him produce his damage assessment.

“Cabrera’s work was monitored, supported, and conducted by the plaintiffs. They paid more than $200,000 to fund his ‘independent’ findings,” Chevron said in the statement. “

One of plaintiffs’ attorneys Steven Donziger denied helping Cabrera produce the report and said Chevron is trying to undermine the expert’s findings to reject any eventual negative court ruling.

“The party that asks for the technical work has to pay for it. Chevron partially payed for Cabrera’s work in a previous part of the case,” Donziger told Reuters. “We had to fund his (Cabrera) budget because we were the only ones asking for the overall assessment. Chevron is again trying to undermine the court.”

Chevron has argued that it was released from any liability because it paid $40 million for an environmental cleanup in the 1990s, and blames state oil company Petroecuador for much of the pollution.

The plaintiff said they expect a final ruling on the case in 2009.

Reporting by Alonso Soto; Editing By Bernard Orr

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