Ecuadorian Court Signals End to Gas Flaring in Amazon Oil Operations

In historic decision, judges rule in favor of lawsuit brought by youth over contamination and climate impacts of oil industry flaring in the Ecuadorian Amazon

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Ada Recinos at ada@amazonwatch.org or +1.510.473.7542 (U.S.)
Alejandra Yépez Jácome at ayepez@amazonwatch.org (Ecuador)


Quito, Ecuador – On January 29, 2021, Ecuadorian judges ruled in favor of nine girls who sued the government over rights violations from the oil industry practice of gas flaring at oil production sites in the country's Amazon region.

Leonela Moncayo, Rosa Valladolid, Skarlett Naranjo, Jamileth Jurado, Denisse Nuñez, Dannya Bravo, Mishell Mora, Jeyner Tejena, and Kerly Herrera, who live in close proximity to the flares, filed their groundbreaking case in 2020 seeking to end the practice that is a major source of contamination since oil extraction began in the 1970s. There are 400 gas flares in operation in Ecuador's Amazon. It is the first case of its kind in Ecuador, and the first brought by children.

The court found that flaring violates the rights of nature, the right to a clean environment, the right to health, water, and food security, and as well as its climate change commitments to emissions reductions. The plaintiffs are awaiting the specific sentence details to be announced next week that will detail obligations to repair and remediate existing flares, and implement restrictions on flaring and mandate transition plan to cleaner technology.

"I am very happy because finally if justice is served, nature will be healed and restored for all the sick children, for their parents who have fought to stay healthy, for the families who have also kept fighting just to maintain their crops, for the families who live in the shadows of the flares, and those that have had to abandon their land because of the contamination. We are happy because it shows we have the power to make a change, to force big companies like Petroamazonas to do the right thing and not pollute. This is a victory for the people and the planet, and a loss for those that want to destroy it," said ten-year-old Leonela Moncayo, one of the plaintiffs.

The court's decision states that it accepts the appeal filed by the plaintiffs and declares that the Ecuadorian state has disregarded the plaintiffs' right to live in a healthy and ecologically balanced environment, disregarded their right to health by not providing or promoting the use of environmentally clean technologies and non-polluting and high impact renewable energy.

This ruling in favor of health, life, nature, and the environment is a historic step that will allow remediation and redress for the thousands of people who have been affected by the contamination produced by the venting and flaring of gas in the oil wells of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

"The position of the Ecuadorian government is questionable because instead of proposing the best options to restore the rights that were violated, it attempted to delegitimize the lawsuit and pointed out that implementing the ruling could ‘breaks the country's economy.' We demand that the Ecuadorian government comply with the ruling and implement processes to prevent further contamination. In addition, we urge oil companies to act responsibly, because economic interests cannot be placed above life and nature", said Pablo Fajardo, one of the lawyers for the nine plaintiffs.

With this ruling, Ecuador has an opportunity to change its antiquated environmental practices, failed policies, and lack of accountability that has reigned over the oil industry for decades and led to widespread environmental damage to one of the world's most delicate and critical ecosystems while poisoning local communities and violating their rights.

The decision comes on the heels of another indictment of Ecuador's state-run oil company Petroecuador and oil industry operations this week as four major European banks committed to end their financing of the trade of Amazon crude from the country because of environmental concerns, Indigenous rights violations, and climate impacts.

"This is a major victory for the people of Ecuador's Amazon, and a historic precedent set by nine girls who live in the shadows of the oil industry and for the Union of Peoples Affected by Texaco (UDAPT), that has been campaigning to eliminate the flaring for four years. We join in their call to the Ecuadorian government, that it ends permitting for the burning and venting of gas, as ordered by the court, and to protect the life and rights of its people", said Carlos Mazabanda, Ecuador Field Coordinator of Amazon Watch.

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