The truth behind Chevron's greenwashing: 'The true cost of Chevron'

June 22, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Television viewers in Australia are being bombarded by an expensive series of PR advertisements extolling how much the giant "energy" corporation Chevron "agrees" with the Australian people's concerns for the environment. In a classic example of "greenwashing", Chevron's "We Agree" campaign is a concerted effort to defuse opposition to its activities around the world.

But as with most capitalist advertising, the truth and reality behind the glossy claims are very different, as the True Cost of Chevron: An Alternative Annual Report below highlights in extensive detail. Fortunately too, the satirical exposers of corporate shams the Yes Men joined forces with the environmental groups Amazon Watch and the Rainforest Action Network to issue a bogus press release and set up a phony website to expose the "We Agree" campaign.

Below is the introduction to the True Cost of Chevron: An Alternative Annual Report, which was released in May 2011. Readers can download the report or read it on screen below.

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CEO John Watson opens Chevron’s 2010 Annual Report by telling the corporation’s stockholders that “2010 was an outstanding year for Chevron".

We do not agree.

We, the communities who bear the costs of Chevron’s operations, have witnessed a year in which Chevron’s performance was anything but exceptional. As we have documented in this third installment of the True Cost of Chevron: An Alternative Annual Report, Chevron continues its long history of ravaging natural environments, violating human rights, ignoring the longstanding decisions of Indigenous communities, destroying traditional livelihoods, and converting its dollars into unjust political influence in the United States and around the world.

This report is a record of egregious corporate behaviour that — in locations as diverse as California, Burma, Colombia, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the Philippines and the US Gulf Coast — has spanned decades and carries on today.

In the year that saw the world’s largest unintentional oil spill, intensifying global concerns about the safety of the hydrocarbon industry, Chevron has failed to change its behaviour.

  • In 2010, Chevron pursued ever-riskier and ever-deeper offshore projects in the South China Sea, the North Sea, the US Gulf Coast and the Canadian Arctic.
  • In 2010, Chevron intensified its investments in three controversial liquefied natural gas projects in areas of Western Australia that have tremendous international conservation significance.
  • In 2010, Chevron announced a major expansion of its Alberta, Canada tar sands projects, which are destroying the environment and severely impacting the health, livelihood and cultural preservation of Indigenous communities living downstream from this destructive development.
  • In 2010, a rupture of Chevron’s pipeline in Salt Lake City, Utah dumped over 33,000 gallons of oil into Red Butte Creek, exposing residents to oil fumes and unknown health impacts as the pollution flowed downstream through this densely populated streambed. After the pipeline was turned back on under Chevron’s assurances of safety, a second rupture occurred within a few hundred feet of the first spill just five months later, dumping an additional 21,000 gallons of oil.
  • In 2010, Chevron continued its well-documented history of releasing toxic pollution in both Angola and Nigeria through recurrent leaks and waste discharges, and the harmful practice of gas flaring.
  • In 2010, the Chevron joint venture developing the supergiant Tengiz Field in Kazakhstan emitted such high levels of toxins into the air that the country’s government fined the operation nearly $64 million.
  • In 2010, a Chevron pipeline explosion covered part of an Indonesian village in hot crude oil, leaving two children suffering burn wounds and a community devastated.
  • In 2010, two extrajudicial killings by Burmese Army battalions providing security for the Yadana pipeline—owned by a joint venture that includes Chevron—were documented by EarthRights International.
  • In 2010, in an effort to silence local community voices opposed to the corporation’s destructive practices, Chevron disenfranchised shareholders by denying admission to its annual shareholder meeting to 17 individuals who held legal proxies.

2010 was not an outstanding year for the communities where Chevron operates.

The campaigns undertaken by communities around the world to hold Chevron accountable for its actions were outstanding. The acknowledgements of Chevron’s wrongdoings by government entities in locations around the globe were outstanding. The hard fought victories achieved by citizens uniting to change the Chevron Way were outstanding.

After nearly 18 years of litigation, the Indigenous people and campesinos of the Ecuadorian Amazon achieved a critical milestone in 2010. An Ecuadorian court ordered Chevron to pay $9.5 billion for cleanup, clean water, health care and other reconstruction efforts for the tens of thousands of people affected by the company’s widespread contamination in the region.

Environment Texas, the Sierra Club and the National Environmental Law Center reached a settlement in 2010 with Chevron Phillips Chemical requiring the company to pay a $2 million penalty and implement major changes at its chemical plant in Baytown, Texas. The plant had violated its clean air permits hundreds of times since 2003, leading to more than one million pounds of illegal emissions.

In an unprecedented victory for the community of Richmond, California, in 2010 the State Court of Appeals upheld the majority of findings in a lower court decision that the Environmental Impact Report for the expansion of Chevron’s Richmond refinery violated state environmental law.

After decades of campaigning against Chevron’s highly polluting coal operations, communities in Alabama, New Mexico and Wyoming welcomed — with cautious optimism — Chevron’s announcement that 2010 would be the year the corporation would exit the coal industry.

We celebrate these triumphs and the many courageous individuals whose refusal to be silenced has been instrumental in bringing Chevron’s egregious actions to light.

Even so, there is much work to be done. Chevron is vigorously contesting the landmark verdict in the Ecuador case and is continuing flagrant violations of environmental and human rights around the globe. As Luis Yanza, coordinator for the Affected People’s Assembly in Ecuador, writes, “the struggle will continue today stronger than before ... to ensure that justice triumphs over impunity.”

We invite you to read our report of the true cost of Chevron’s operations in communities from Alaska to Thailand, to decide for yourself if Chevron displayed an outstanding record in 2010, and to join with the growing international movement to hold Chevron accountable for its abuses around the globe.

Download the full report HERE or read on screen below.

True Cost Chevron 0511 May2011