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Appeals planned as Amazon residents win ruling against Chevron

By the CNN Wire Staff
Humberto Piaguaje, an Ecuadorean native and member of the Amazon Defense Coalition, speaks during a news conference in Quito, Ecuador, on Tuesday.
Humberto Piaguaje, an Ecuadorean native and member of the Amazon Defense Coalition, speaks during a news conference in Quito, Ecuador, on Tuesday.
  • A judge awards $8.64 billion to residents of the rain forest in Ecuador
  • Chevron says the verdict is based on fraud and will appeal
  • The plaintiffs will also appeal because they say the award is not large enough

(CNN) -- A judge in Ecuador this week awarded $8.64 billion to Ecuadorian residents of the Amazon who had sued Chevron for years of crude oil pollution, but both sides said Tuesday they will appeal the verdict.

Chevron charges the verdict against them is the "product of fraud," and the plaintiffs say the size of the award is too small in comparison to what would be needed to do a real cleanup.

Luis Yanza, speaking for the residents' group the Assembly of those Affected by Chevron, said at a news conference that the ruling was "historic" and a "collective victory." However, he said, "Eight billion dollars doesn't represent a significant amount to repair the environmental damages."

The judgment against Chevron is the latest in 18 years of litigation between the Amazon residents and Texaco, which was later purchased by Chevron. It was decided in a courtroom in the Amazon by Judge Nicolas Zambrano.

For its part, Chevron said it will also appeal.

"The Ecuadorian court's judgment is illegitimate and unenforceable," said Chevron, in a press release Monday. "It is the product of fraud and is contrary to the legitimate scientific evidence."

Both sides have until Friday to file their appeals.

Despite the pending appeal, one of the local leaders, Humberto Piaguaje, called the judgment a victory for the population that lives in the oil-producing area in northern Ecuador.

"The judge did justice and has seen reality," he said. "We know that this is only one part of our fight and we will continue until there is justice and the damage is healed. The world should know that what happened in the Amazon and our fight for life, for justice."

The case, Aguinda v. ChevronTexaco, was originally filed in New York in 1993 on behalf of 30,000 inhabitants of Ecuador's Amazon region. The suit was eventually transferred to the Ecuadorian court and Ecuadorian jurisdiction.

The lawsuit alleges that Texaco used a variety of substandard production practices in Ecuador that resulted in pollution that decimated several indigenous groups in the area, according to a fact sheet provided by the Amazon Defense Coalition.

According to the group, Chevron has admitted that Texaco dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways, abandoned more than 900 waste pits, burned millions of cubic meters of gases with no controls and spilled more than 17 million gallons of oil due to pipeline ruptures.

Cancer and other health problems were reported at higher rates in the area, the group says.