Protest and Non-Violent Civil Disobedience at Chevron; 31 Arrested

Protest and Non-Violent Civil Disobedience at Chevron, California’s worst climate polluter, on first day of United Nations climate change negotiations in Copenhagen

San Ramon, CA – As Chevron employees arrived to work early this morning, they were met by nearly 100 people who gathered in protest of Chevron’s global destruction of communities, the environment and the global climate.
Protestors interrupted business as usual at Chevron, by blocking the main entrance to the corporation’s headquarters, as well as two additional entrances for several hours. 31 people were eventually arrested.  By noon, most of those arrested were cited and released.

The protest and non-violent civil disobedience was organized by the Mobilization for Climate Justice West – a coalition representing more than 30 local social justice, environmental, labor, and human rights groups – today to coincide with the first day of the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Similar protests are taking place nationally and
globally.

As the largest and most polluting corporation in the state of California, Chevron was targeted locally for undermining efforts to combat global warming and expanding its operations into more environmentally destructive and polluting forms of crude oil like the Canadian tar sands. And, as the 3rd largest corporation in the U.S., Chevron is using its immense financial resources to influence federal environmental policy. In the first half of 2009, Chevron spent nearly $13 million lobbying the federal government, more than twice the amount it spent during the same period in 2008.

David O’Reilly, Chevron’s outgoing CEO, and John Watson, who will succeed O’Reilly on January 1, have sharply criticized domestic global warming legislation and robust long-term targets for reducing climate pollution.
Their arguments, rooted in corporate self-preservation at the expense of the health and safety of people and the planet, fly in the face of a scientific consensus that calls for rapid, drastic action to reduce climate pollution.

“By working to derail effective climate change policy in the U.S., Chevron is undermining the UN climate negotiations where other nations are looking to the U.S. to make binding commitments to reduce emissions,” said Cathy
Kunkel of Mobilization for Climate Justice. “Chevron’s opposition to significant action on climate change is in line with its history of environmental and human rights abuses in communities all over the world.”

Chevron’s global operations, from Ecuador and Nigeria to Burma and the Philippines, have had disastrous impacts on local communities and ecosystems. Those impacts have also been felt closer to home. Last month, the California Air Resources Board ranked Chevron’s Richmond oil refinery as the state’s single largest climate polluter, emitting 4.8 million tons of greenhouse gasses in 2008 alone.

Local residents in Richmond have been fighting for decades to get Chevron to clean up its act. In addition to global warming pollution, the refinery emits toxic air pollution that has driven high rates of asthma and cancer in the surrounding community. Rather than address the effects of its operations on the health of the local community, Chevron recently attempted an expansion of its operations in Richmond that would have allowed the company to process heavier crude oil.

According to Jessica Tovar, community organizer with Communities for a Better Environment, “Chevron’s Richmond refinery is the number one greenhouse gas polluter in the state.  Now is the time to make a green transition, rather then lock in dirtier crude refining in Richmond.”

“Chevron is a bad neighbor, and the community of Richmond has suffered as a result. We want Chevron to take responsibility for the environmental damage it has caused here in Richmond and abroad,” said Mari Rose Taruc, State
Organizing Director for the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. “We want green jobs for Richmond and a healthy community, neither of which Chevron has provided.”

“Chevron has to know that we’re not going away.  We’re breathing and feeling the effects of Chevron’s pollution every day.  While we go to the graveyard, Chevron goes to the bank. We’re determined let Chevron know that they’re killing us in the process of making money.  This has to change,” said Reverend Kenneth Davis from North Richmond after being arrested this morning.

Mobilization for Climate Justice West and more than 20 allied groups signed a letter to incoming Chevron CEO John Watson, calling on him to take three immediate actions:

1.  Support equitable, science-based emissions reduction targets and climate solutions in international climate change negotiations and domestically.

2. Pledge not to support fake “grassroots” campaigns against national climate change legislation.

3. Cap the crude and stop expanding into heavier, dirtier sources of crude oil.

15 Responses to “Protest and Non-Violent Civil Disobedience at Chevron; 31 Arrested”


  1. 1 Juliana Williams Dec 8th, 2009 at 12:07 am

    It’s so important to keep the pressure on this site – tackling the giant corporate polluters is always an uphill battle, but the city of Richmond really deserves better than the pollution produced by this site. For California to lead the country on climate issues but fail to address its largest polluter is unacceptable. Great work out there!

  2. 2 Ricardo Frustockl Dec 8th, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Thank you for reporting on this. I regularly use google to search the web for “protest” as of recently I have discovered that you must use the advanced options and put a exclusion something like -Iran or you get bombard with the same old propaganda news about the turmoil in middle east. So anyway I want to thank you for your grass roots organizing. It is people like you that make difference. Think Globally Act Locally it’s not just a saying. Keep up the good work. Godspeed.

  3. 3 Morgan Dec 8th, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Yeah, and its going to take numbers, too. I hope high-profile protests like this can rally others to the cause. No one likes oil companies, but not too many people know what they can do about them.

  4. 4 Joyful Noise Dec 12th, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Why California? The big threat right now is in New York State with energy companies coming in to deforest and industrialize the entire southern tier to use Halliburton’s high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing in deep radioactive shale for natural gas extraction. This process uses 3-9 million gallons of water per well and injects approximately 250 chemicals, some known carcinogens and mutagens. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYSDEC) Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DSGEIS) is open for public comment until Dec 31, 2009. It has been characterized as “woefully inadequate” to protect public health, safety, and welfare. One well pad would be allowed every square mile. Each well pad could have 8-16 wells. 5 acre open pits of waste water would add to the deforestation and be lined with a material which is in itself toxic to the ground. Injection wells for wastewater are also considered, as is spreading of the brine on road for de-icing. Volatile organics would be released into the air, and contamination of rural wells and drinking water for NYC, Trenton, Camden, and Philadelphia is possible. In Pennsylvania where drilling has begun, there have been accidents, gas ignited a pond, methane has come into people’s homes through their taps and ignited, people’s well water has been contaminated, thousands of fish and other marine life has been killed. Go to the following link for more info: un-naturalgas.org

  5. 5 Rob Dec 12th, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Also see Chevron’s involvement with Burma.
    Chevron’s links to Burma stir critics to demand it pull out

    David R. Baker, Chronicle Staff Writer

    Thursday, October 4, 2007

    Print E-mail Share Comments (71) Font | Size:
    Chevron Corp. of San Ramon is drawing harsh criticism for its business ties to Burma, the Asian nation conducting a brutal military crackdown.

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    The company owns part of a natural gas project in Burma, where soldiers crushed pro-democracy protests last week and killed at least 10 people.

    U.S. sanctions prevent most U.S. companies from working in Burma, but Chevron’s investment there existed before the sanctions were imposed and continues under a grandfather clause. As a result, the company is one of the few large Western companies left in the country.

    Now Chevron faces pressure to pull out.

    Human rights activists are calling on the company to either leave Burma or persuade the country’s military rulers to stop killing demonstrators. Bloggers are encouraging people to flood Chevron’s phone and fax lines in protest. Some are calling for a boycott.

    “There’s no question that the money from the pipeline project helps prop up the military government,” said Marco Simons, U.S. legal director for EarthRights International. “If Chevron can stop people from getting killed by using its influence, we’d certainly like to see that. In the long run, we don’t think anyone should be doing business with this government.”

    But Chevron doesn’t intend to leave.

    “Chevron is maintaining its interest in the … project,” said spokesman Alex Yelland.

    The company has been trying to build up its portfolio of oil and natural gas projects in Asia, where energy demand is growing fast. Chevron also has a history of working under difficult political circumstances. In some cases, that history involved countries with questionable human rights records or nations that ran afoul of the U.S. government. In other cases, the company’s own actions have been called into question.

    Chevron has been the focus of repeated protests in Nigeria, for example, where soldiers paid by the company have been accused of shooting villagers and burning homes. And the company continues to work in Venezuela, despite constant sniping between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the Bush administration.

    Chevron has denied any part in any human rights abuses. Its executives argue that staying in troubled countries – even pariahs such as Burma – does more good than harm by employing locals and funding health and education programs.

    “I’m convinced that hundreds of thousands of people in Burma have benefited,” said Chevron Vice Chairman Peter Robertson, who pointed to the community doctors and teachers his company has paid for. “They benefit from us being there.”

    There’s also the question of whether pulling out would work.

    Chevron owns a minority stake in the Yadana natural gas field and pipeline, a little more than 28 percent. Both China and India have been eager to do business with Burma, hoping to secure some of the fuel supplies that their surging economies need. If Chevron left, one country or another would try to take its place, Robertson said.

    “It’s pretty clear that this is a very attractive asset, and other people would be interested,” he said.

    Frank Verrastro, head of the energy program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies think tank, said Burmese law also would force Chevron to fork over much of the company’s capital gains on the project if it sold its stake. That could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, depending on the sale price. The project cost roughly $1 billion to build in the mid-1990s and is doubtless worth far more today.

    “That goes straight to the Burmese government,” Verrastro said. “The biggest conundrum right now is how to deal with bad actors who have a resource that the world needs. And we haven’t come to grips with that in any way, shape or form.”

    Chevron’s involvement in Burma – called Myanmar by the military junta that rules it – already has a complicated and controversial history.

    It started with Unocal Corp., one of Chevron’s historic rivals. Unocal invested in the Yadana project in the 1990s along with three other companies: France’s Total, Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise and the Petroleum Authority of Thailand. When Washington decided to impose sanctions on Burma’s military junta in 1997, Unocal was allowed to stay under a grandfather clause.

    Chevron acquired the stake when it bought Unocal in 2005. By then, however, the Yadana project had become a public relations disaster for Unocal. Burmese exiles sued the company in a U.S. court, saying the pipeline’s construction had involved forced labor and other human rights abuses committed by the military. Unocal denied the accusations but settled the case out of court for an undisclosed sum.

    Burma isn’t the only place where Chevron has faced questions about human rights.

    The company’s operations in Nigeria have triggered frequent protests by poor Nigerians who say they see little of the money flowing from the nation’s rich oil fields. Some have sued Chevron, saying that soldiers paid by the company have killed protesters and villagers.

    And in Ecuador, Chevron is fighting a long-running lawsuit concerning oil-field pollution that residents say has contributed to a wave of illnesses in part of the Amazon jungle. The suit alleges that Texaco, which operated an oil-field in Ecuador years before Chevron bought the company, left pools of petroleum and hazardous chemicals scattered around the field, eventually covering them with thin layers of soil rather than removing them.

    In both countries, Chevron has denied the allegations, both inside and outside court.

    In Burma, Chevron acts mainly as an investor. The company does not operate the Yadana field. That role falls to Total, which has the biggest stake in the project, at 31 percent.

    Despite its strategic location for Chevron, Yadana has its limits. The U.S. sanctions prevent Chevron from expanding its investment, even as the company pours money into exploring for oil and natural gas off neighboring Thailand. And the existing operations are small compared to many of the company’s projects worldwide.

    Even so, Yadana represents a key source of cash for Burma’s government.

    Human Rights Watch, one of the groups trying to pressure Chevron, says natural gas sales are the government’s single largest source of income, although economic data from Burma are unreliable. Gas sales to Thailand brought the government $2.16 billion in 2006, according to Human Rights Watch. Most of the Yadana project’s gas flows to Thailand.

    “President Bush should order Chevron to cease operations in Burma immediately,” said Nyunt Than, president of the Burmese American Democratic Alliance. “That would cut hundreds of millions of dollars from this military. It would create great pressure on them to come to the table.”

    A White House spokesman referred questions about Chevron’s presence in Burma to the National Security Council, which did not respond to a query.

    Chevron pays for social programs in communities along the Yadana pipeline’s route, funding teachers, libraries and doctors. The company reports significant declines in local deaths from malaria and tuberculosis since the programs began.

    But exerting political pressure on Burma’s government is another question entirely. Chevron has typically resisted calls for that kind of involvement.

    Chief Executive Officer David O’Reilly defended that position in a Chronicle interview last year.

    “You have to be apolitical and try to remember what you’re doing. What we do well is we invest in oil and gas exploration, refining and whatnot,” he said. “We were in Angola during years and years of civil war and years when there were clearly people in the United States who felt that Angola was an inappropriate place to invest. And yet Angola’s civil war is over. We’ve had a very positive influence there. We’ve created a lot of jobs.”

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/10/03/MNNBSIK4D.DTL#ixzz0ZUYeOmN6

  6. 6 ANNIE AIRD Dec 12th, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    I WISH IT WERE ME SITTING ON THE GROUND PROTESTING. I HAVE MOVED TO MEXICO AND DID SO DURING THE BUSH PERIOD. I LIVED IN SANTA CRUZ CALIFORNIA AND HAVE DONE MUCH PROTESTING. I AM 78 YEARS OLD AND THOUGHT AT MY AGE, IN THIS TIME, THE NEED TO PROTEST WOULD BE OVE AND ALL THE BAD GUYS WOULD HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT. WHAT A DREAMER I AM AND WAS. THE BATTLE IS NOT OVER. STRIKE ON…PROTEST IS GOOD FOR MOTHER EARTH

  7. 7 Ebba Dec 16th, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Thanks for this protest.
    I was in Ecuador and saw what Chevron (former Texaco had done to the Amazon, black rivers and dirty soil for more info look at http://www.crudethemovie.com/

  8. 8 Roger Aug 6th, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    It is simple, we just simply stop buying from these polluting corporations and they will change overnight!!! The “bottom line” always dictates the policies of greed.

    God help this nation of ours, Roger S.

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About


Scott Parkin is a Senior Campaigner with Rainforest Action Network and organizes with Rising Tide North America. He has worked on a variety of campaigns around climate change, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, mountaintop removal, labor issues and anti-corporate globalization. Originally from Texas, he now lives in San Francisco.

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