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Chevron sitting in environmental hotseat

American oil-giant, Chevron, has been battling against a 27 billion dollar court ruling from an Ecuadorian court that finds the company was guilty of damaging the environment with its oil drilling operations in the country. Not content to merely wage battle in the courtroom, Chevron has aggressively lobbied the U.S. government to interfere in the case by changing The United States trade policy with Ecuador.

This court case received world wide attention when Joe Berlinger (filmmaker of BROTHER’S KEEPER, PARADISE LOST, METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER) created the compelling documentary CRUDE, which was an official selection at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

The environmental damage in question is allegedly the size of Rhode Island where people have been getting cancer and other illnesses related to oil drilling pollution. The lawsuit was filed by powerful U.S. lawyers on behalf of 30,000 residents of the polluted area in Ecuador. The prosecuting lawyers have connections with a few members of Congress, including Barack Obama when he was still a senator in 2006.

While the 27 billion dollars in damages sought in this lawsuit may seem enormous, the scale of destruction in Ecuador is documented in staggering detail in Joe Berlinger’s CRUDE. While it may seem that this sum would devastate Chevron, the company earnings amounted to 18.7 billion in 2007 and a staggering 23.93 billion in 2008. Chevron contends that their company’s success was too tempting a target for the Ecuadorian government and its 30,000 plaintiffs, further insinuating that the whole court case has been created to get at Chevron’s corporate savings.

If Chevron can win this case by convincing the U.S. government to alter trade policy with Ecuador, then perhaps that would also explain how their company made nearly 24 billion dollars in 2008. If, on the other hand, Chevron ends up losing this case, it may strike a decisive blow against the environmental damage that oil drilling can cause.

You can watch a clip from the 2009 Sundance Film Festival by clicking the player below, where you can enjoy hearing from Joe Berlinger himself as he describes his film.

For more details on the case and the history behind the environmental damage in Ecuador, check out the story from Politico.com. Click here if you want more info about the shocking documentary CRUDE.