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Chevron Management Hit with Protests on Five Continents over Environmental Abuses

In a global protest event spanning five continents, several communities affected by Chevron’s sloppy operational practices call on consumers and governments to not do business with oil giant until the company’s management team cleans up its act and implements new policies to better protect the environment.

The communities – which include indigenous groups in Ecuador, Argentina, and Nigeria – are calling for all consumers and governments to stay away from any product with the Chevron brand or any brand owned by Chevron subsidiaries, including Texaco, until any court judgment for environmental clean-up or legitimate demands for remediation are adequately addressed by the company.

Affected communities in Richmond, a city suffering from ongoing toxic pollution due to Chevron’s refinery, have joined the call. Led by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, protesters are denouncing the oil giant’s failure to prioritize the health and safety of the Richmond community two years after a violent explosion and fire sent 15,000 local residents to the hospital, caused numerous health impacts, and led to a finding that the company committed criminal violations that led to a $2 million fine.

“Chevron needs to shift its corporate culture and put health and safety first, before its profits, whether in Richmond, Ecuador, Nigeria and everywhere it does business,” said Mayor McLaughlin.

The protests are taking place in at least sixteen countries, including Argentina, Nigeria, Romania, Ecuador, Belgium, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Brazil, Bulgaria, Austria, Spain, France, Germany, Australia and the U.S. Many of the actions are being held within cities and towns where Chevron has current upstream exploration operations with implications for access to new reserves, according to a spokesman for Amazon Watch, a U.S.-based NGO that is helping to coordinate the actions.

“Chevron’s oil extraction activities in the Niger delta communities is leading to environmental degradation and pollution of rivers and farmlands from frequent oil spills and gas flaring and resulting in the destruction of farming and fishing livelihood sources. They substitute operational costs for corporate social responsibility to mislead the people. The crime scene of economic ecocide must be accounted for by the Company and their CEOs,” said Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria.

The actions are taking place just days before the company’s annual general meeting where Chevron CEO John Watson is under increasing pressure from shareholders for his company’s environmental record, particularly its failure to comply with an Ecuador court judgment requiring the company to pay $9.5 billion to clean up indigenous ancestral lands from the company’s pollution. For more on the Ecuador judgment and Chevron’s environmental problems in that country, see here.

“The purpose of this citizens’ initiative is to provide a public platform of increased visibility to allow those who suffer or have suffered at the hands of Chevron to raise their voices and be heard around the world,” said Humberto Piaguaje indigenous leader from the Siekopai community of Ecuador, and coordinator of the Union of People Affected by Texaco Petroleum Operations, one of the organizations promoting the call.

Watson recently announced he was moving the Chevron annual meeting from company headquarters near San Francisco to a remote town in Texas, where the company had rented a petroleum museum for the gathering. In recent years, community leaders from different countries have besieged the Chevron annual meeting with protest, including last year when several called for the firing of CEO Watson due to his poor leadership and repeated disregard for human rights and the environment, particularly in Ecuador where the company admitted to dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the rainforest.

Chevron’s policy of vilifying its victims and disregarding critiques from its own shareholders has increased significantly since Watson took over as CEO and Chair of the Board, according to Paul Paz y Miño, Online & Operations Director at Amazon Watch. In 2010, Watson had five shareholder activists who had confronted him arrested.

At this year’s annual meeting scheduled May 28, shareholders furious with Watson’s failure to address the company’s human rights problems will vote on four separate resolutions that challenge his authority on the question. Last year, one of the resolutions challenging Watson’s authority related to the Ecuador liability garnered a whopping 37% shareholder support, representing $73 billion in company assets.

“The Global Day of protest and call for solidarity against Chevron is a critical step in the growing effort to hold Chevron accountable for its human rights abuses around the world,” said Paz y Miño of Amazon Watch, which has worked closely with the Ecuadorian rainforest communities that recently won the court judgment against the company.

A statement signed by the affected communities, which can be found on the website, outlines a partial list of Chevron’s human rights and environmental violations and puts out a call for international solidarity for those seeking redress for Chevron’s harm.  Some of the demands include:

  • That Chevron pay for the pollution and destruction of nature, including terrestrial and marine ecosystems, particular when the damage is determined by pending court judgments;
  • That Chevron implement clear policies to respect the right to self-determination in the communities where it operates, and that it respect any rejection of the use of fracking and other high-risk operational practices when denied by local communities;
  • That Chevron comply with the legal obligations imposed on it by judicial systems in the countries in which it operates, including the judgment in Ecuador that the company refuses to pay after more than two decades of litigation;
  • That until Chevron can clearly certify compliance with its legal obligations in host countries, the affected communities will be calling on all citizens and governments around the world not to purchase any products with the Chevron brand or brands owned by Chevron subsidiaries, including Texaco.

Chevron for years has come under attack by a growing number of environmental and human rights groups, including 43 U.S.-based advocacy groups that recently criticized Watson for engaging in a legal retaliation campaign against lawyers and advocates who held the company accountable in Ecuador.

The declaration by the affected communities makes clear that Chevron has caused widespread and deliberate pollution across the globe; has repeatedly violated environmental safety regulations; and has allied itself with brutal military regimes that are complicit in human rights violations, including the deaths of environmental protesters in Nigeria and the use of forced labor in Myanmar. Rather than address the criticism, Chevron has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on “greenwashing” advertising and aggressive retaliatory legal attacks, according to the statement.

The affected communities and their supporters also accuse Chevron of disregarding the rule of law when it sees fit, abusing systems of justice and attacking the very victims of its environmental crimes when they stand up and challenge the company.




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