Ecuadorean indigenous villagers and their lawyer have strongly criticized the U.S. Supreme Court for declining to hear arguments in their ongoing US$9.5 billion environmental legal fight with Chevron Corporation.
The Amazon Defense Coalition is the grass roots organization in Ecuador's Amazon region representing the 80 indigenous and farmer communities who brought the appeal.
Responding to the decision, they said, "Like many people and countries in Latin America, we are washing our hands of U.S. courts in terms of any hope of achieving environmental justice. Chevron will now be held accountable elsewhere."
Their lawyer, Steven R. Donziger, said the U.S. Court's decision on Monday was "a grave mistake and a sad reflection on the U.S. judiciary in the eyes of the world".
Chevron had been found guilty in Ecuador of causing environmental damage to the Lago Agrio region.
In 2011, an Ecuadorean judge ordered the oil giant to pay US$18.2 billion for "extensively polluting" the area.
Ecuador's highest court upheld the verdict against Chevron in 2013, but reduced the amount of compensation to US$9.5 billion.
Soil and water supplies were contaminated by Texaco between 1964 and 1990. Texaco was later acquired by Chevron.
While not disputing that pollution occurred, the California-based oil giant has said it is not liable and alleged Donziger and his associates had orchestrated the writing of a key environmental report and bribed the presiding judge in Ecuador.
R. Hewitt Pate, Chevron's vice president and general counsel said the latest U.S. Supreme Court decision was "an important step toward bringing this illegal scheme to a final conclusion".
The oil company has also said a 1998 agreement between Texaco and Ecuador absolved it of further liability.
In March 2014, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan barred enforcement of the 2011 judgment, citing the way it was obtained as the reason.
This meant the Ecuadorean villagers could not use the U.S. courts to enforce the ruling against Chevron.
But they are promising to continue their fight despite their latest setback on Monday.
They say they will pursue their attempts to collect their judgment in Canada.
The Canadian Supreme Court has already denied an attempt by Chevron to block an enforcement action.
The next hearing on the claim by the villagers is scheduled for October 10 in Toronto before the Ontario Court of Appeals.