Oil Company Management Barraged with Criticisms over Climate Change Fraud, SEC Violations, and Environmental Justice
Oakland, CA – A coalition of local, national and international environmental and human rights rights organizations once again demand that Chevron Corp be held to account over its environmental and human rights abuses in the Amazon rainforest, at its Richmond refinery, and everywhere the corporation operates.
In what has become an annual “takeover” of Chevron’s shareholder meeting, activists and affected communities will once again confront Chevron senior management on Wednesday. Secoya indigenous leader, Humberto Piaguaje of Ecuador will enter Chevron’s headquarters confront CEO John Watson and its board. Alongside Piaguaje will be local leaders from Richmond, California and environmental and human rights activists from many organizations including the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, Community Science Institute, Greenpeace USA, Idle No More SF Bay, Movement Rights, Pachamama Alliance, Rainforest Action Network, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Sunflower Alliance, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), and 350.org Bay Area.
Only days before the meeting solidarity protests were held across Europe in Paris, Berlín, Munich, Rome, Brussels, Amsterdam, Oslo, Barcelona, and Madrid on what has become an international day of protest against Chevron.
In what is widely regarded as the environmental trial of the century, Chevron was found liable for $9.5 billion in environmental damages for contamination in Ecuador’s rainforest. The verdict, from a court of Chevron’s own choosing, was upheld by eight justices and three layers of courts including Ecuador’s Supreme Court. The affected communities in Ecuador recently won a resounding victory before Canada’s Supreme Court in their effort to force Watson to comply with the judgment by seizing the company’s assets. In Canada, Chevron has an estimated $15 billion worth of oil fields, bank accounts, and refineries – or more than enough to pay the entirety of the Ecuador judgment.
“Chevron has tried virtually every trick in the book to try to make it’s Ecuador disaster ‘go away’. It has failed. The people of Ecuador continue to fight and each year their solidarity movement grows. Communities in over twenty-five nations on five continents have organized protests. The human rights and environmental community stands unified in opposition to Chevron’s actions and legal attacks against the Ecuadorians and their allies. This is an epic fight for justice and Chevron management is living in denial if it thinks we will ever go away until justice is served,” said Paul Paz y Miño Associate Director at Amazon Watch.
“Our people are sick and dying, our territories are still contaminated.” said Humberto Piaguaje. “There is no excuse why CEO John Watson won’t do what the courts and basic morality oblige him to – give us the clean up and clean water we deserve,” he continued.
“As First Nations peoples of Canada we stand with the affected indigenous communities in Ecuador who continue their decades long quest for justice from Chevron for its deliberate contamination of the Amazon rainforest,” said Michelle Thrush, Cree from Treaty 7 in Alberta Canada, noted Canadian actor and winner of a Gemini Award (Canada’s highest honor for Screen Actors). “As indigenous peoples who continue to suffer at the hands of multinational corporations we understand the challenges our brothers and sisters in the Amazon face and we support them. We will continue to support them as they bring their quest for justice to the courts in Canada,” continued Thrush, a long time Indigenous activist.
Andres Soto, Richmond resident and representative of Communities for a Better Environment has seen firsthand Chevron’s effects on the environment and how it responds to its critics. “We in Richmond know better than most in the US how Chevron’s “Profits Before People” mantra is used to injure people in our community and damage the global environment while John Watson paints a pretty picture for its shareholders. The people in Richmond want shareholders to know our health is not for sale and we demand shareholders direct Watson’s Chevron to stop resisting air quality and process safety regulations so it can expand the lining of investor pockets,” said Soto.
Here in California, after it was sued by the City of Richmond for a refinery fire that sent 15,000 people to the hospital, Chevron spent millions to try to buy the local election rather than help the affected people. “Chevron should stop using their big and dirty money to buy local political elections. People should elect their representative by a democratic process, without the influence of big corporate money like Chevron’s,” said Lipo Chanthanasak, a community representative of Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN).
In addition to the Ecuador issue Chevron faces a host of resolutions rebuking management’s actions on lobbying, climate change, renewable energy, fracking wastewater, lack of environmental expertise on its board.
Research by the Climate Accountability Institute has traced nearly two-thirds of all heat-trapping emissions from fossil fuels and cement to just 90 investor- and state-owned entities, including Chevron. The work shows that Chevron has the greatest responsibility for climate change of any publicly traded company, as the largest investor-owned producer of historic carbon emissions since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Meanwhile, evidence uncovered by Union of Concerned Scientist, Center for International Environmental Law, Inside Climate News, and others show that Chevron and the petroleum industry was conducting climate research as early as 1957 and knew about the potential for catastrophic climate risks by 1968 at the latest.
“We are concerned that Chevron and other major fossil fuel producers are not making a clean break from climate denial, they are not improving tracking and disclosure, and they are not serious about the long-term health and sustainability of their own businesses, the communities in which they operate, or the planet we all call home,” says Deborah Moore, Western States Senior Campaign Manager for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“Fossil fuel companies should be held accountable for deceiving consumers and the public about climate science – the catastrophic consequences of which they’ve known of since the late 1960s. California is once again leading the way via the Climate Science Truth & Accountability Act, SB 1161 (Allen), that will help hold companies accountable for fraudulent business practices related to climate science deception,” Moore continued. SB 1161 will be considered by the full California Senate in the next week.
The Newground resolution calls for Chevron to make it easier to hold special meetings given that Watson’s management team “has mishandled a number of issues in ways that significantly increase both risks and costs to shareholders. The most pressing of these issues is the ongoing legal effort by communities in Ecuador to enforce a $9.5 billion Ecuadorian judgment for oil pollution.”
Newground asserts that under Watson’s leadership, Chevron “has yet to properly report these risks in either public filings or statements to shareholders. As a result, investors requested on several occasions that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigate whether Chevron had violated securities laws by misrepresenting or materially omitting information” relevant to the Ecuador liability.
Chevron’s Board presented knowingly false information to its shareholders in its 2016 Proxy Statement when stating that lawyers for the Ecuadorians offered a $500,000 bribe to Ecuadorian ex-judge Alberto Guerra. In a stunning reversal, Guerra admitted under oath that he “exaggerated to Chevron in an attempt to improve his negotiating position” as Chevron itself indicated it its own legal filings. Guerra has famously admitted to lying about the alleged bribe and deal to “ghost write the verdict”. Guerra also admitted, and Chevron confirmed, that the company has paid Guerra close to $2 million for his testimony. “How has Watson reported the use of these funds to shareholders? Does that fall in the “bribery column” of Chevron’s annual report?” asked Paz y Miño.
“Chevron faces a truly global coalition of justice and environmental activists simply because its crimes are so massive and its efforts to evade justice are a serious threat to the very idea of justice and open society. John Watson and Chevron leadership actually believe that might makes right and they falsely assume that corporate power trumps the power of the people. They have grossly underestimated their adversaries and they have deliberately misled their shareholders in the process,” said Paz y Miño.