Government Gave Big Oil The Power to Prosecute Its Biggest Critic
In recent years, the American government has given the fossil fuel industry hundreds of billions of dollars of subsidies and opened up wide swaths of public land for drilling. Now, as the climate crisis worsens, a federal judge has given a private corporate law firm with ties to fossil fuel companies the power to criminally prosecute one of the industry’s biggest foes—a lawyer who notched one of history’s biggest legal victories against a major oil company. In 2011, Steven Donziger led the legal team that secured a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron for polluting the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador. Chevron has not paid that claim, and last year a judge appointed a private law firm to criminally prosecute Donziger for a contempt charge in a countersuit filed by Chevron in federal court in Manhattan. That law firm, Seward & Kissel LLP, has represented Chevron itself as recently as 2018, according to recent court documents. Put another way: The government has taken the extraordinary step of giving prosecutorial power to a law firm that has worked for Chevron—and is allowing that prosecutorial power to be aimed at Chevron’s chief adversary, who has been under house arrest for 332 days.