“Anti-Chevron Day” is a global day of action, every year on May 21, to remind the world of the impacts caused by the oil company in places such as the Ecuadorian Amazon, Myanmar, and across California, including their El Segundo Refinery on Santa Monica Bay coast of Los Angeles. For the eighth consecutive year, a diverse coalition of groups calls upon the international community before Chevron’s Annual General Meeting on May 26 so that together, in this global fight, we can combat impunity by corporations and secure recognition of the human rights violations against affected communities.
Since 2009, the True Cost of Chevron coalition, a group of affected communities and allied organizations, have brought their combined messages to the Chevron CEO and management on the eve of every annual shareholder’s meeting. Shareholders representing billions of dollars of assets under management routinely join those communities to call on the oil giant to change its practices. Still, the management continually rejects and dismisses the calls from those harmed by its operations.
Background: For over a century Chevron has poisoned El Segundo and other Los Angeles South Bay residents with deadly air pollution from its El Segundo refinery. It basically owns the City of El Segundo government and gets a free pass from the California Coastal Commission and California Energy Commission. Communities around the globe—Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Burma (Myanmar), to name just a few—suffer from deadly water, soil, and air pollution as well as inhumane working conditions and political interference. Chevron and its partner companies steadfastly deny any responsibility, in order to keep the oil and their profits flowing.
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Protest organizer Jack Eidt from SoCal 350 Climate Action told Myanmar Now that Chevron should work in concert with the US government to pressure Myanmar’s junta to restore democracy.
“We are concerned by [Chevron’s] environmentally corrupt business practices. The case in Myanmar fits with their business model – the pursuit of profits no matter the cost to people and planet. They will condone and fund a military coup just to keep their profits flowing. We want Chevron to stop funding the coup,” Jack Eidt said.
Beginning in 2014, communities from twenty different nations began organizing globally to send a message to Chevron that its operations are killing communities and destroying the environment must stop. This year’s participation includes affected communities in Richmond and Los Angeles, CA, Ecuador, Nigeria, Australia, and those in solidarity with the people of Myanmar. Solidarity actions will happen in New York and elsewhere.
This year, Chevron suffered a shareholder rebellion from climate activists and disgruntled institutional investors over their failure to set a strategy for a low-carbon future. They voted 61% in favor of an activist proposal from Dutch campaign group Follow This to force the group to cut its carbon emissions. Mark van Baal, who founded Follow This, said the shareholder revolts from both Chevron and Exxon-Mobil mark an investor “paradigm shift” and a “victory in the fight against climate change.”
Chevron is one of the world’s largest polluters, leaving behind human rights abuses everywhere it operates. Paul Paz y Miño, Associate Director of Amazon Watch shared, “Amazon Watch has stood in solidarity with communities affected by Chevron for over 20 years. There has never been more support and more focus from the international community on exposing its abuses and holding it to account. Chevron has spent billions attacking its critics, but we are stronger than ever, and the movement for climate justice will hold Chevron accountable for its crimes.”
In the Bay Area, the Chevron Richmond refinery operates with impunity, explosions have sent thousands of residents to the hospital, excess flaring happens every few weeks, and recently spilled 600 gallons of oil into the bay. Shoshana Wechsler, a Coordinator of the Sunflower Alliance, said, “Many of us who gather today live at the fenceline of the Chevron Richmond refinery. Our families suffer from elevated rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases, autoimmune conditions, and cancer. But everyone in the Bay Area is impacted. A million of us live under the invisible and toxic plume of particulate matter emitted by this refinery. On February 9th of this year, Chevron spilled its “high performance” diesel into our bay.”
Wechsler added, “Chevron’s billions may fuel a public relations campaign to clean up its image, but we’re here to tell the real story. This corporation fights every attempt to regulate its pollution – even a current effort by Air District regulators to enact strong particulate matter controls. The True Cost of Chevron is being paid by people like us all over the globe.”
Chevron has a history of polluting first and using legal attacks to silence its critics later, and it never pays up for the full extent of its damage to communities. Zolboo Namkhaidorj, Richmond Youth Organizer of Communities for a Better Environment shared, “Chevron came to a settlement with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and they agreed to pay $146.5K for 33 air quality violations from 2016-2018. That’s barely a drop in the bucket and that’s less than $5k per violation for all the harm that they’re doing to the community.”
In the Ecuadorian Amazon, Chevron (formerly Texaco) deliberately dumped more than 16.8 billion gallons of toxic waste and crude and abandoned over a thousand unlined and uncovered oil waste pits. “Chevron’s operations were built to spill. It poisoned the people and decimated what was once pristine Amazon rainforest. Affected communities have been seeking justice for almost three decades, and despite a $9.5 billion judgment in their favor, Chevron still refuses to pay and is on the run from the law, while local communities desperately need environmental remediation, potable water, and health funds,” shared Kevin Koenig, Climate and Energy Director at Amazon Watch.
“For almost 30 years Chevron-Texaco has pillaged the Ecuadorian Amazon. Indigenous peoples and campesinos have been forced to drink the poisoned water and eat plants grown in the poisoned soil for generations as a result of the toxic waste that is undisputedly caused by Chevron-Texaco. It doesn’t get any worse than that. Poison the planet, kill the local people, destroy Indigenous communities, and then move on to the next location where you do it all over again solely to line the pockets of corporate shareholders. Despicable,” shared Lauren Regan, Executive Director of The Civil Liberties Defense Center.
“Chevron used a SLAPP – Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation – in an attempt to rewrite history denying the human suffering and irreparable environmental contamination in Ecuador. Chevron manipulated the US legal system using what its law firm called the “kill step” to silence the human rights lawyer that won the Ecuador case, Steven Donziger. The true intent in targeting Donziger is to scare other environmental lawyers from daring to sue the fossil fuel industry for its role in catastrophic climate change and annihilation of the Amazon rainforest,” said Graham Clumpner, Mosquito Fleet and Protect the Protest Coordinator. “Through SLAPPs, companies like Chevron are trying to sue their critics into silence rather than face accountability.”
In Myanmar, Chevron is the owner of the Yadana gas field and pipeline, bankrolling the military and its coup. “More than 800 people have been killed since the military coup in Myanmar on February 1st. Chevron is funding slaughter in Myanmar and to stop it, president Biden must sanction Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) to make such payment illegal,” shared Nyunt Than, member of the Burmese American Democratic Alliance (BADA).
Communities in the Niger Delta continue to face air and water pollution from Chevron’s operations that have caused cancer and respiratory illnesses. “While Chevron’s facilities persistently fail and cause massive spills on land and in the ocean, it continues to deploy the tactics of denial. This is ostensibly to evade responsibilities for its acts. In January of this year, it denied responsibility for yet another significant oil spill from its coastline Funiwa oil facility in Bayelsa State, Nigeria. To date, the oil has yet to be properly cleaned up and local fishermen and residents grapple with its impact,” shared Vivian Bello, from the affected communities of the Niger Delta.
In Western Australia, Chevron operations emit huge amounts of poisonous pollution: Chevron alone accounts for 20 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Anthony Collins, from 350.org Perth, Australia shared, “Chevron’s activities in Australia are not only damaging to our climate but also workers’ safety. In the last month, four workers at their Gorgon facility have been exposed to potential Mercury poisoning. At the same facility, Chevron is required by state law to inject 80 percent of reservoir CO2 underground. They got paid $60M to make this happen but seem to have never had any intention to do it. Instead of injecting roughly 40 percent of their greenhouse gas emissions, they have only managed to bury 12 percent.”
The cases demonstrating Chevron’s deliberate pollution are many, and part of a series of socio-environmental disasters created by the oil company. Chevron is so opaque in its business practices that it is classified as the least transparent company in the world. It has dozens of subsidiary companies in a system of tax havens created to evade taxes and justice. It also takes advantage of the existence of the international arbitration system to ensure its impunity.
Chevron’s pursuit of profit has endangered the lives of millions of people, from the people of Myanmar to the communities of Koluama in the Niger Delta, to the future of life on this planet. Chevron is one of the transnational corporations that has contributed the most to the climate crisis through its carbon and methane emissions. Chevron’s actions throughout the world are a clear example of how transnational companies have international mechanisms of impunity embedded at every judicial level.