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.
Read the full letter here.