Ecuador will clean up areas in $18 bln Chevron case

Thu Dec 15, 2011 12:01am GMT

* Petroecuador says it is "obliged" to clean up

* Says that does not mean it is responsible for pollution

* Says people's health is at risk as legal battle drags

By Victor Gomez

CUYABENO, Ecuador , Dec 14 (Reuters) - Ecuador's state oil company Petroecuador said on Monday it will clean up areas in the Amazon jungle at the heart of a lengthy legal battle in which Chevron was ordered to pay $18 billion damages.

Locals accuse Texaco, which was bought by Chevron in 2001, of dumping oil-drilling waste in unlined pits, polluting the forest and causing illness and deaths among indigenous people in the 1970s and 1980s.

A judge ordered Chevron in February to pay environmental damages and clean up the old drilling sites. Chevron denies the charges, and the 18-year-old legal saga looks set to continue after both sides appealed.

"The pollution is in areas assigned to us and we've got the obligation to clean them up," Petroecuador's general manager Marco Calvopina told reporters, adding that cleaning the areas would not amount to taking responsibility for the pollution.   Continued...

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