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Built to Spill: Chevron’s corporate slobs

Submitted by admin on May 15, 2010 – 3:10 pm3 Comments
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Hold Chevron’s corporate slobs accountable May 26th

By Karla Aguilar

An exploding oil rig April 22nd sinks into the Gulf of Mexico after two days of raging fires on the surface. The estimated 336,000 gallons of petroleum spilled daily into the ocean as a result spikes concerns of the Gulf of Mexico’s “dead zone” where the Mississippi’s chemical and waste nastiness runs off and lingers. Of course the 11 million gallons from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spillage on Alaska’s Prince William Sound devastated the image of pristine beauty and pales in comparison. But the worst environmental spillage in our lifetime wasn’t an accident to begin with, yet it has scarcely made the news.

Between 1964 and 1990, using obsolete technology and substandard environmental controls, iconic Texas brand Texaco (which Chevron acquired in 2001) drilled for oil in a remote northern region of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest.   They deliberately dumped 18.5 billion gallons of highly toxic waste sludge into the streams and rivers on which local people depend on for drinking, bathing, and fishing. Over 900 open air and unlined waste pits remain that continue to seep toxins into the ground, in the rainforest.

The sludge contained some of the most dangerous chemicals known – including benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – lethal concentrations. Rupturing oil pipelines and gas flaring was also a regular occurrence. What’s worse, the dumping was done intentionally to cut corners and save an estimated $3 per barrel.

In the Oriente region of the Ecuadorean rainforest, once supporting 30,000 people, land itself has become toxic and entire water systems are contaminated. Almost any kind of food from this region – whether farmed, domesticated, caught in the wild or in water – is unsafe to eat. More than 1,400 people have died of attributed cancers and continue to die from Chevron’s toxic legacy.  Children under 14 are most vulnerable, suffering high rates of birth defects and leukemia.  Local economies and communities have collapsed.  And for Indigenous communities who remain, their way of life, culture and traditions, have been radically altered.

David and Goliath Center Stage

Seventeen years ago a class-action lawsuit from residents was filed and continues with a decision intended to come down later this year. Damages for this historic trial, taking place in Ecuadorean court, have been assessed at a record $27.3 billion. Between 2002 and 2008, Chevron’s profits increased by an astounding 2100%, to $24 billion:  its largest profit on record and the fourth highest profit of any corporation in the world that year. In 2008, only 36 countries on the planet had GDPs larger than Chevron’s revenues. If successful, the case will establish a monumental precedent for corporate accountability and environmental justice across the globe.

Chevron, based in San Ramon, California, is the fifth largest corporation in the world, the fourth largest global oil company, the second largest oil company in the U.S., and the largest corporation in California (by revenue). It is the product of several mega-mergers, including in 1984 with Gulf, in 2001 with Texaco, and in 2005 with UNOCAL.

Complicity in Crimes

For over a decade, a powerful movement has been building to expose the true cost of Chevron’s operations and the communities in struggle against them. Communities harmed by Chevron’s operations have increasingly united and built more allies to demand human rights, environmental, economic, and climate justice, and corporate responsibility.

Families from the Niger Delta filed a suit for Chevron’s complicity in a the murder of two protesters by the security company hired to secure pipelines. In Kazakhstan the company was fined $609 million for illegally storing sulphur contaminating land and water resources. In Canada’s Alberta region, Chevron is invested in tar sands – one of the most environmentally damaging projects on the planet. In the Philippines, regular oil leaks and spills have sickened Manila residents. Chevron’s operations in Burma are providing a financial lifeline to the Burmese military regime – known for its appalling human rights record. In Western Australia, Chevron’s liquefied natural gas facility threatens the health of local communities and fragile humpback whale and turtle populations.

Texas Connections

A Woodland’s based partnership with Conoco Philips in 2000 has half it’s chemical facilities in Texas. As reported in the upcoming 2010 True Cost of Chevron: Alternative Annual Report, “These facilities, dangerous even when operating in top form, are mired in constant violations and fines by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for both air quality and hazardous waste releases.” In 2009, Chevron Conoco was cited 17 times, one TCEQ order listed 29 separate violations, “including hundreds of instances of failure to prevent unauthorized emissions of volatile organic compounds, ethylene, butadiene, benzene, nitric oxide, and propylene.” Indeed, the Dirty South.

On May 26, representatives from communities harmed by—and fighting back against—Chevron will descend on Houston to confront the oil giant at its annual shareholder meeting. People from Ecuador, Nigeria, Colombia, Indonesia, Angola, Burma, Australia, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Canada, Texas, California, Alaska, Wyoming and beyond will be in attendance. Organizations like Amazon Watch, Rainforest Action Network, Global Exchange and T.E.J.A.S. are working to change Chevron.  But to really move one of the world’s largest and most dangerous corporations, we need an even bigger, more powerful, and more global movement.

May 26 at 8 am in front of Chevron’s Houston office at the former Enron building, concerned Houstonians will demand real change and justice for those most affected by Chevron’s toxic legacy.

For more information readers can go to: www.truecostofchevron.com

3 Comments »

  • Antonia Juhasz says:

    Just a note to encourage everyone to come out for a fun, creative, colorful protest rally at Chevron’s offices at 1500 Louisiana at 7AM - not 8am as the (absolutely fabulous!) article incorrectly states.

    See you at 7am!

    learn more at http://www.TrueCostofChevron.com and http://www.GlobalExchange.org/chevron

    see you there!

  • Aileen says:

    Thanks for this article, Karla! Looking forward to a powerful synergy of concerned Houstonians and folks from around the globe calling for justice.

  • grants for women says:

    What a great resource!

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