Ecuador conservation effort gets dragged into legal fight

Miami HeraldJanuary 6, 2012 

BOGOTA -- One of Ecuador’s most ambitious conservation efforts is getting dragged into one of the world’s largest environmental lawsuits.

When Ecuadorean officials announced last month that they had raised the $100 million needed this year to guarantee an innovative crude-for-conservation program, it sparked accusations of creative accounting and led to speculation about where the money was coming from.

At issue is a proposal to leave more than 900 million barrels worth of oil beneath Yasuní National Park if the international community will cover the revenue shortfall.

This week, the Huffington Post set off a firestorm by suggesting that Chevron was trying to duck an $18 billion judgment against it in Ecuador in exchange for funding the Yasuní-ITT initiative.

According to the article written by Amazon Watch activist Mitch Anderson, Chevron was willing to pay $500 million into the Yasuní Trust Fund and give the Ecuadorean government an equal amount for clean-up efforts. In exchange, it wanted the government to dismiss the lawsuit it’s facing for failing to properly remediate the oil fields left behind by its predecessor.

Ivonne Baki, the coordinator of the Yasuní-ITT program, said she has no relation “whatsoever” with Chevron and that the initiative had met its funding goals without anonymous donations, as the article suggested.

“She rejects the notion that she has had any type of contact or dialogue with supposed representatives of the oil company that resulted in a contribution to the fund,” her office said in a statement.

Read the complete story at miamiherald.com

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