Oil and Justice in the Amazon

In a town called Lago Agrio, "sour lake," deep in the oil-rich rain forest of Ecuador, what could be the biggest environmental lawsuit in history is being fought.

It's a battle pitting 30,000 indigenous Ecuadorians, and a team of American trial lawyers, against the U.S. oil giant Chevron. The plaintiffs claim Chevron is responsible for the damage caused by 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste, and an Ecuadorian court-appointed expert recommends the company pay up to $16 billion.

Chevron says the case is fundamentally flawed. Activists call it a global game-changer.

With Kelly Hearn, staff reporter for The Washington Times and former correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor. His reporting on Amazonian oil issues was sponsored by The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and his articles on the subject have appeared in The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, National Geographic News and The Virginia Quarterly Review. He has covered the Chevron case since 2005.

Excerpt by guest host Jane Clayson