UPDATE 1-U.S. court rejects Ecuador challenge to $96 mln Chevron award
(Adds byline, background on dispute, statement from Chevron)
By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK Aug 4 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday rejected Ecuador's challenge to a $96 million international arbitration award in favor of energy giant Chevron Corp, marking the latest twist in a decades-long dispute over the development of oil fields in the South American country.
The dispute stemmed from a 1973 deal that called for Texaco Petroleum Co, later acquired by Chevron, to develop oil fields in exchange for selling oil to the Ecuadorean government at below-market rates. Texaco filed several lawsuits in the 1990s accusing Ecuador of violating the contract.
The District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2011 award from The Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands.
Calls for comment to a lawyer for Ecuador and the Ecuadorean embassy in Washington were not immediately returned.
The decision is not part of a separate legal battle brought by a group of Ecuadorean villagers who claim Texaco caused billions of dollars in pollution damage when it began exploring oil deposits in the 1960s.
In the case at hand, Chevron initiated an arbitration proceeding at The Hague in 2006, claiming the Ecuadorean courts failed to resolve the lawsuits in a timely manner, violating a treaty between Ecuador and the United States. A panel awarded Chevron $96 million, which was subsequently upheld by the Dutch court system.
Chevron then filed a federal lawsuit in Washington, seeking a judgment confirming the panel's decision in order to collect the award. After a federal judge affirmed the award in 2013, Ecuador appealed to the D.C. Circuit. Continuación...