An Ecuadorean judge yesterday ordered Chevron to pay—wait for it—$8.6 billion, for polluting the Amazon region. It's one of the biggest environmental judgments ever, if not the biggest. It comes after the case had dragged on for 17 years.

And, of course, there's no telling how much, if any, of that Chevron will actually end up paying. The company calls the ruling "illegitimate and unenforceable," as well as "the product of fraud." The company is appealing in Ecuador, which could extend the case by many more months, or years. Chevron is also pursuing a lawsuit in the U.S. to try to block enforcement of the ruling, and has even gotten The Hague to urge the Ecuadorean government to see to it that the company doesn't pay anything.

In cases like this, it's hard to be optimistic about Big Oil being forced to empty its pockets to protect the health and welfare of humans who can't even afford Grade A lobbyists, much less a shadowy private army. But even if Chevron is never made to pay a penny, we'll always have a place in our hearts for the judge in this case:

An Ecuadorian judge on Monday ordered Chevron Corp. to pay $8.6 billion to clean up oil pollution...

And if the U.S. oil giant doesn't publicly apologize in the next 15 days, the judge ordered the company to pay twice that amount.


[NYT, WSJ. Photo of Ecuador's beautiful oil water: AP]