Chevron and Ecuador Arbitration Pressured to be Made Public
The arbitration process beginning in Washington between Chevron and Ecuador, under the auspices of the Permanent Court of Arbitration will be confidential and private, but may not remain so for long if various activist groups have their way. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) has led the way with a public request that the proceedings be made public.
The three-member committee will meet with representatives of the company and the country in a private session barred to the press and the public as they determine whether to force Chevron to pay a verdict awarded to Ecuador amounting to more than $9 billion. The award stemmed from contamination to the Amazon rainforest from oil leaks. Chevron has been fighting the award, granted in Ecuadorian courts, describing the award as a “shakedown.”
The RCFP notes the historical nature of the dispute, as it is the largest environmental judgment in history, and has serious implications for sovereign nations attempting to police their natural resources against the intrusion of large corporations. These factors call for transparency in the proceedings, according to the RCFP.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration has allowed transparency in prior actions, including webcasting some proceedings live to the Internet. However, such decisions are made on a case-by-case basis; the PCA has no standing rule requiring transparency. There is no immediate indication whether the PCA will move towards public sessions; however, Chevron no doubt prefers the matter remain confidential and will likely push for that determination.