November 28, 2012, San Francisco: EarthRights International (ERI) filed an action in U.S. federal court today on behalf of five Nigerian villagers whose community has long suffered harms to their health and environment from the reckless burning of natural gas by Chevron’s Nigerian subsidiary. The action seeks evidence from Chevron, relying on the same statute that Chevron itself has used dozens of times in its campaign to avoid liability for oil pollution in Ecuador.
The five applicants are suing Chevron Nigeria in Nigerian court on behalf of five villages in Ugborodo Community in Delta State, Nigeria. In that case, they allege that Chevron Nigeria is liable for environmental and other damages caused by flaring of natural gas in their villages, and that such flaring is illegal under Nigerian law. The action filed today seeks environmental impact assessments and other evidence of the harmful environmental and health effects of gas flaring.
“Gas flaring has been polluting Ugborodo community for far too long,” noted Richard Herz, ERI’s Litigation Coordinator. “Today’s action will provide evidence supporting the community’s lawsuit in Nigeria, which we hope will put a stop to that flaring once and for all.”
Although the area is rich in crude oil, the area villages are not benefitting and instead are suffering extreme environmental harm. Instead of using or re-injecting the natural gas trapped in the same reservoirs as the oil, Chevron has chosen the least costly and most harmful method of extraction, simply burning the gas in huge flares that light the skies day and night and pour toxic materials into the air where villages live and farm. A Nigerian court has ruled that this practice is illegal.
In addition to polluting the areas nearby, gas flaring is a substantial contributor to climate change. As Chevron admits on its website, one of “[t]he two primary sources of our [greenhouse gas] emissions . . . [is] flaring of the natural gas that is extracted along with crude oil.”
The federal court motion was filed under the Foreign Legal Assistance (FLA) Statute (28 U.S.C. § 1782), which allows parties in a foreign lawsuit to obtain evidence from individuals or companies in the United States. Chevron has made extensive use of Section 1782 in seeking to avoid a multi-billion dollar judgment issued against it by an Ecuadorean court for pollution in the Ecuadorean Amazon, filing dozens of actions under this statute in recent years.
In addition to EarthRights International, the applicants are represented by lawyers Judith Brown Chomsky of Philadelphia and Abby Rubinson of San Francisco.
EarthRights International is a NGO with offices in the United States, Thailand, and Peru specializing in protecting human rights and the environment, and corporate and government accountability. More information on ERI is available at http://www.earthrights.org.