Crude, the 2009 Sundance Film Festival award winning documentary, recently premiered here in Honolulu on August 23, 2010. I was able to attend the premiere downtown and the documentary was an interesting film that followed a class action lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador. According to the film, the lawsuit alleges that from the 1960s to 1980s Texaco devastated portions of a jungle while drilling for oil. Chevron is a Defendant in the lawsuit because it acquired Texaco in 2001.
Since its debut in 2009, Crude has won over a dozen awards and been shown at over 50 venues worldwide including several legal conferences and a special screening for members of the U.S. Congress in March 2010. The documentary is a case study, following the time line of the lawsuit. The current lawsuit, Aguinda v. Texaco, Inc., 303 F. 3d 470 (2d Cir. 2002) was filed by a group of Ecuadorian citizens in US federal court 17 years ago (Aguinda v. Texaco, Inc., Dkt. No. 93 Civ. 7527 (S.D.N.Y. filed Nov. 3, 1993).
The film depicts the claims of approximately 30,000 Ecuadorians who reside near “waste pits” left after oil drilling. Plaintiffs allege that they should be compensated because of numerous instances of cancer, birth defects and other illnesses resulting from the oil drilling which contaminated their water, land and air.
Although Texaco reportedly left Ecuador in 1992, the Plaintiffs contend that before leaving, billions of gallons of polluted water were dumped in the jungle and rainforests over several decades. To date, Richard Cabrera, the court-appointed expert, estimated damages to be approximately $27.3 billion. Viewers, who are curious to know what has happened since the film’s release, will have to turn to the news and Court documents, as after 17 years, this lawsuit is still pending.