FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 23, 2008
Indigenous Peruvians Appeal Dismissal of Federal Lawsuit Against Oxy Petroleum For Contaminating Amazon Rainforest, Poisoning Communities
LOS ANGELES – July 23 -Lawyers working on behalf of a group of indigenous plaintiffs from the Peruvian Amazon yesterday filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, seeking to overturn a ruling that their landmark human rights lawsuit against Occidental Petroleum must be heard in Peru, not in United States.
According to the 25 indigenous plaintiffs, Occidental caused egregious harm by unnecessarily dumping a daily average of 850,000 barrels of toxic wastewater into the tropical rainforest inhabited by the Achuar people of northern Peru over a 30-year period, causing an epidemic of lead and cadmium poisoning among other serious health impacts. The oil giant’s other outdated operating practices in the region also included flaring which caused acid rain and the improper storage of waste in unlined pits.
The Achuar case, Maynas Carijano v. Occidental Petroleum, No. CV-07-5068, was filed in May 2007. In April 2008, Judge Philip Gutierrez of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled that it is more appropriately heard in Peru under the legal doctrine of forum non conveniens. The plaintiffs and their counsel, including Washington D.C.-based EarthRights International (ERI), the Venice firm Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman LLP, and San Francisco lawyer Natalie Bridgeman, have now filed an appeal to that ruling.
According to A Legacy of Harm, a 2007 report issued by ERI, California-based advocacy group Amazon Watch, and the Peruvian legal non-profit Racimos de Ungurahui, Oxy’s operations discharged billions of barrels of untreated wastewater into local streams, caused numerous spills and resulted in many unremediated toxic waste sites in Achuar territory.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to hold a hearing on the appeal in 2009. The plaintiffs are, however, also fully prepared to pursue legal redress in Peru if necessary.
Amazon Watch is an environmental and human rights organization based in San Francisco, California. We work to help indigenous communities in the Amazon basin defend their territories and culture from the impacts of large-scale industrial “development” such as oil and gas drilling. To learn more please visit: http://www.amazonwatch.org/.
EarthRights International (ERI) is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that combines the power of law and the power of people in defense of human rights and the environment. Focusing on earth rights, we work at the intersection of human rights and the environment. We specialize in fact-finding, legal actions against perpetrators of earth rights abuses, training for grassroots and community leaders, and advocacy campaigns that seek to end earth rights abuses and promote and protect earth rights. To learn more, including viewing a copy of A Legacy of Harm, please visit: http://www.earthrights.org/.