Chevron’s Worst Year Ever, Episode 3: Richmond, CA

Written by Mike G

Topics: Frontline Communities, Oil

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This has been one of the worst years ever for Chevron. From it’s ongoing massive legal losses in Ecuador, to offshore disasters in Brazil and Nigeria, to the tragic deaths of its employees in several locations, including right here in California.

This is the third in a series of statements we’re posting as we prepare for a week of what is sure to be inspired 99% Spring protest against Chevron’s irresponsible and destructive business practices (read the first statement, by Kazakhstan’s Sergey Solanyik, here, and the second, by Ecuador’s Luz Trinidad Andrea Cusangua, here).


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These statements are by people from around the world (and from right here in the Bay Area) letting us know what it really means to live in the communities where Chevron operates. Many will travel to San Ramon, CA to bring their calls for justice directly to the company’s executives, board members, and shareholders at Chevron’s annual shareholder meeting on May 30. You can view all of the statements at TrueCostOfChevron.com. If you want to join the protest on May 30, RVSP and find details here.

Today’s statement comes from right here in our own backyard — Richmond, CA, home of one of Chevron’s two massively polluting California refineries. Nile Malloy and Greg Karras of Communities for a Better Environment work with the local communities in Richmond who have to live with the impacts of having the largest stationary source of greenhouse gas emissions in all of California as a neighbor. In their statement, Nile and Greg ask: “Will Chevron commit to support policies that protect community health and our environment from increased and prolonged pollution caused by refining heavier, dirtier oil?”

CBE’s CHEVRON SHAREHOLDER’S STATEMENT—2012

Chevron’s Richmond Refinery is the largest industrial greenhouse gas emitter in California and the largest source of CO2 and criteria air pollutant emissions in Richmond. Industrial air pollutant emissions in Richmond are up to ten times the regional or statewide averages on a per capita basis, and compared with the statewide average for all business activity, oil refining creates ten times fewer jobs (see: A less-pollution, more-jobs land use policy to make Richmond a Green Zone). Chevron has the opportunity to use more renewable energy on-site at its refineries and to increase energy efficiency while processing oil to reduce emissions locally. Chevron can afford more GHG reduction and clean energy jobs locally instead of offsetting local emissions abroad. In new projects that require environmental review, local communities should get the health, climate reductions, clean energy, and economic benefits locally.

Part of the Richmond Refinery - CBE 2011

Part of the Richmond Refinery - CBE 2011

We understand that adding solar energy generation to Chevron’s Richmond refinery and other refineries is a bold opportunity that will encourage the local community to have access to clean jobs while protecting the health and vitality of low-income and working class communities of color around the planet. As the largest corporation in California, Chevron could be a real leader in climate protection by reducing emissions locally. This would be a bold statement to the rest of the industry to redress air quality, water, environmental and climate liabilities that have historically put families and children in harm’s way.

The Chevron of the future could leverage its clean and green capacities to strike a better balance with the local communities where it operates and propose real climate solutions for the world. But this will require bold creative change. Four requests to Chevron’s CEO, Management, and shareholders come forth from our communities’ experience with Chevron in Richmond and California at this time.

Renewable repower

Will Chevron commit to a program that, to the extent possible, repowers its refineries with renewable energy? The basis for this request is outlined above.

Ethics

During 2007–2010 Chevron proposed a Richmond refinery project that could have increased air emissions locally, in part because of a planned shift to heavier, inherently dirtier crude oil that the company did not disclose to the public in its environmental impact report (EIR), though it was disclosed to investors. This led to understandable community concern, and to court rulings that blocked or delayed the project, including an appeals court ruling by three Republican-appointed judges that faulted this nondisclosure. Instead of accepting its responsibility for these errors and its construction workers’ resultant job losses or deferrals, Chevron engaged in a divisive PR campaign that attempted to blame them on community health advocates and environmental laws. This is unethical. Will Chevron renounce and no longer pursue this unethical tactic?

Transparency

A revised environmental impact report (EIR) for Chevron’s proposed revised Richmond refinery project is scheduled for public release and review later this year. As the project proponent, Chevron has primary control of project data to be disclosed in the EIR. Nondisclosure was a crucial problem with the previous review as noted above. Will Chevron commit to provide community members and the public a complete and transparent environmental review in this revised EIR? Specifically, will Chevron:

  • Fully and accurately disclose all project equipment specifications and data?
  • Measure, monitor, and disclose the refinery’s current and potential future oil input quality and
    resultant pollutant emissions?
  • Fully disclose, describe, and analyze measures to lessen or avoid the proposed project’s
    potential environmental impacts such as

    • replacing aging, inefficient and overly polluting refinery equipment?
    • limiting hydrogen production (which causes emissions) to this refinery’s needs?
    • limiting the inherent pollution potential of oil refined to current oil quality?
    • partially repowering the refinery with onsite and nearby solar energy?

Environmental justice

As peoples worldwide strive to “decarbonize” our energy supply in order to avert potentially catastrophic climate change, some in the oil industry are pushing the wrong way, toward highercarbon heavy and tar sands-derived oil. Though perhaps first raised to Management by the community in Richmond, it is now beyond dispute that refining heavier, dirtier oil burns more fuel in refineries—and that raises issues of environmental justice.

Refining heavier, dirtier oil will at best use up limited remaining pollutant capture technology, foreclosing needed cuts in emissions to protect the health of nearby communities. At worst it could overwhelm available pollutant control technology, increasing emissions in communities that already are disparately exposed.

Will Chevron commit to support policies that protect community health and our environment from increased and prolonged pollution caused by refining heavier, dirtier oil?

Conclusion

CBE seeks environmental health and justice and asks others to make these same commitments, but Chevron’s corporate governance is at issue here and now. Please consider these requests in the spirit of responsible corporate governance, and with the understanding that, with your help, it can be true that WE AGREE on them.

Top: Nile Malloy. Bottom: Greg Karras.

In Health,
Nile Malloy and Greg Karras

This post originally appeared on City Brights.

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