Environmental justice, human rights groups, and investors demand reform of Chevron practices at companys annual General Meeting
Oil giant targeted over environmental and human rights abuses worldwide, as stockholder concern grows
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. – An ever growing coalition of local, national and international environmental and human rights rights organizations are demanding Chevron Corp be held to account over its environmental and human rights abuses in the Amazon rainforest, Nigerian Delta, and across the bay at its Richmond refinery. Diverse organizations from The True Cost of Chevron network will confront Chevron on a range of issues from environmental destruction and burning dirty fuels to its attacks on free speech rights and attempts to buy local and national elections.
“What we’ve seen year in and year out is that Chevron continues to operate in a toxic manner that is unhealthy for our communities, our planet, and our democracy,” said Paul Paz y Miño, of Amazon Watch. “We are demanding a change in leadership, and a real change in Chevron policy towards the communities where it operates.”
Ecuador: In what is widely regarded as the environmental trial of the century, Chevron was found liable for $9.5 billion in environmental damages for contamination in Ecuador’s rainforests. The verdict, from a court of Chevron’s own choosing, was upheld by eight justices and three layers of courts including Ecuador’s Supreme Court. The company has refused to pay, and now faces enforcement actions on two continents as affected communities seeking a clean up, clean water, and health care pursue company assets around the world. Meanwhile, Chevron has launched a shock-and-awe counter offensive, attacking the victims of contamination and health problems, their counsel, and supporters, seeking to chill free speech and weaken corporate accountability efforts in the U.S. Recent videos from a company whistleblower show “smoking gun” evidence that even places Chevron allegedly cleaned up were still contaminated.
“Chevron has also sought to end-run the Ecuadorian judgment and the communities by dragging the Ecuadorian government before an arbitration panel and using a bi-lateral trade agreement to attempt to shift financial burden for its crimes in the Amazon to the Ecuadorian people,” said Michelle Chan of Friends of the Earth.
“Our people are sick and dying, our territories are still contaminated.” said Humberto Piaguaje, a leader of the Secoya indigenous people and representative of the 30,000 peoples affected by Chevron’s operations. “There is no excuse why CEO John Watson won’t do what the courts and basic morality oblige him to — give us the clean up and clean water we deserve,” he continued.
Despite Chevron’s efforts to evade justice, world pressure continues to mount. More than 200,000 people have signed a new petition led by Sumofus.org demanding that Chevron finally pay its $9.5 billion dollar debt to clean its toxic waste and help communities in Ecuador still suffering a massive health crisis. On May 21 the second “Anti-Chevron” day was held with protests in several countries and a declaration calling for an end to rights abuses at the hands of the extractive industries signed by several nobel laureates, including Bishop Desmond Tutu.
Nigeria: The explosion of Chevron’s KS Endeavor rig on January 16, 2012, 10 kilometers off the shore of Bayelsa State, rocked the lives of many communities including the 7 fishing villages, collectively known as KEFFES, the Dodo River Communities and other communities that are not recognized as Chevron Host communities across three local government areas of Bayelsa State: Brass, Southern Ijaw and Ekeremor LGAs. But the worst was not the immediate damage, which rocked the area and killed two Chevron workers. The roaring gas fire that engulfed the platform with dramatic flames leaping over the ocean waters continued unabated for six weeks. The company, which had been alerted to the instability and volatility by its own workers, didn’t even attempt to staunch the gas flow for four weeks. At six weeks Chevron claimed the gas leak had ended. We aren’t sure that is true even today. Community members disbursed in the immediate aftermath when the air caused asthma, coughing and rashes. There were a couple of unexpected deaths and some miscarriages. The hell portended by fire on water, continues to wreak havoc on villagers lives today. Those still trying to live their lives normally find that up til this day there are no fish in those waters. They paddle out with nets and pull back nets that have mysteriously partially dissolved, with few fish in them, but lots of weed that used to be found only on the sea floor. The weed tangles and destroys the net.
“Chevron has ignored the villagers’ plight, even while the company grows rich from the resources it extracts in our Niger Delta and the nearby waters. Meanwhile community members are hungry and their livelihoods have been destroyed. They demand fair compensation from Chevron for the loss of livelihood and an effective clean-up of the environment, including clearing the floating weeds. Anything short of the above demand is unacceptable and justice denied.” Alagoa Morris, serving as ERA Field Monitor has visited the waters and communities where the explosion occurred repeatedly documenting the environmental devastation and ongoing woes experienced by the villagers.
Climate change and alternative energy: Chevron recently eliminated its renewable solar and wind energy programs and has lobbied a campaign to amend the California mandate to reduce emissions — put in place to help reduce global warming. Now Chevron is refining toxic tar sands from Canada, and it plans to refine the oil from the first tar sands mine in the United States. The thick, asphalt-like crude, known as bitumen, requires more processing than lighter forms of oil, which could lead to increases in pollution and adversely affect the already suffering communities surrounding the Richmond refinery.
Chevron already has an outsized role in greenhouse gas emissions compared to the rest of the oil industry, leading the pack of investor-owned companies with 3.5 percent of all GHGs to date. To avoid climate catastrophe and a 2°C rise in temperature Chevron must develop clean renewable energy alternatives not seek to refine dirtier fuels.
Attacks on Democracy: Chevron took full advantage of the Supreme Court’s misguided Citizens United decision in 2012 when it poured $2.5 million into a Super PAC just weeks before the election. That amount made Chevron the largest corporate Super PAC donor in 2012.
Not long after a major refinery fire that sent 15,000 Richmond, California residents to the hospital, rather than make changes to ensure the safety of their facilities for workers and the community, Chevron dumped more than $3 million in the Richmond election to pack the City Council and mayor’s office with hand-picked, pro-industry candidates. Thankfully, Richmond residents fought back and defeated Chevron’s candidates, despite being outspent 20-1. This race in Richmond demonstrates just one instance of how Chevron is trying to corrupt the political process in their favor around California and the country, spending millions of dollars to elect their hand-picked politicians and roll back common-sense regulations that protect our health, air, water and climate. Time and time again, Chevron has made it clear that they will put their profits over the best interests of our communities and our environment.
This fight is seen by many as a bellwether for the struggle to wrest back democracy for the people in the wake of the Citizens United decision.
Last week, ahead of Chevron’s shareholder meeting on May 27, Richmond City Council members Eduardo Martinez, Jovanka Beckles, Gail McLaughlin, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, the Sierra Club, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Citizens for a Better Environment, CREDO Action, and members of the Richmond community stood together at Richmond City Hall with over 100,000 petitions supporting a resolution calling for Chevron to stop spending tens of millions per year on buying politicians. Representatives will take the same message to Chevron directly at the shareholder meeting in support of Green Century Funds resolution.
“Chevron has consistently violated our community’s trust, demonstrating that they will put their corporate profits ahead of the health and safety of our neighborhoods and our environment. Today, for the future of our communities, we join with 100,000 supporters from around the country calling on Chevron to stop polluting our elections and our planet,” said Richmond City Councilmember Eduardo Martinez.
“Chevron should stop using their big and dirty money to buy local political elections. People should elect their representative by a democratic process, without the influence of big corporate money like Chevron’s,” said Lipo Chanthanasak, a community representative of Asian Pacific Environmental Network.
Andres Soto of Communities for a Better Environment and the Richmond Progressive Alliance echoed the call, “the people of Richmond are once again calling for accountability from Chevron! Do not put profits before people and obscene amounts of money to try and fool voters does not work. It is time to stop your war on Richmond and our allies around the world!”
All of this has investors rattled. Several shareholder resolutions will be up for vote that relate to the company’s poor environmental policies and practices, including greater shareholder input on board of director appointments, such as adding a director with environmental expertise, a proxy access resolution that allows changing the threshold of special meetings to 5 percent of shareholders, and tying executive compensation to sustainability measures. Other resolutions call on the company to report emissions reductions, review its public policy advocacy on energy and climate, report on impacts of hydraulic fracking on water quality, and adopt a dividend policy to increase return to shareholders based on the potential decreasing profitability from capital and carbon intensive projects that will become stranded assets as reserves are forced to remain underground to avoid a 2°C rise in temperature that scientists agree is necessary to avert climate catastrophe