Communities from Nigeria, Ecuador, Burma and US to Confront CEO David O'Reilly in San Ramon; Billions in Potential Liability
Amazon Watch / Asian Pacific Environmental Network / EarthRights International
27 May 2008 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
Protest Planned for Chevron Headquarters; SF Board of Supervisors Considers Resolution Condemning Abuses; Angst In Pension Funds Over Liability
Weds, May 28: PHOTO OP at 7.30am outside Chevron AGM of supporters in full-body haz-mat suits symbolically cleaning "toxic waste" Chevron dumped in Ecuador, Nigeria, and other places. Media briefing straight after AGM (expected at 10am). Both at Chevron headquarters, 6001 Bollinger Canyon Road, San Ramon, CA 94583
San Francisco - Representatives from Ecuador, Nigeria, and Burma have traveled thousands of miles to the Bay Area to confront Chevron CEO David O'Reilly at an annual shareholder's meeting Wednesday over what they call a "grave pattern of human rights abuses" in their home countries that could lead to billions of dollars of liabilities for Chevron shareholders.
The representatives - joined by human rights groups in the U.S. - said a rising tide of abuses associated with Chevron requires decisive action from O'Reilly and his senior management team.
The confrontation comes just after Chevron was hit with a damages assessment in an environmental litigation in Ecuador of up to $16 billion - which could lead to the largest judgment in civil court history - and after a U.S. federal judge in San Francisco ordered the company to stand trial in September over the killing of Nigerian villagers who were protesting on a Chevron oil platform.
"Chevron is at a watershed moment in its history over these growing human rights abuses, yet Chevron management is again burying its head in the sand and refusing to deal with them," said Atossa Soltani, Executive Director of Amazon Watch, an environmental organization working with the human rights advocates. We're here to take the fight directly to shareholders because management has completely failed to live up to its legal and ethical obligations."
In light of the various human rights issues, members of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, including Tom Ammiano, Ross Mirkarimi, and Chris Daly, are set to file a resolution that condemns "... Chevron Corporation for a systematic pattern of socially irresponsible activities and complicity in human rights violations that is at odds with the values of the citizens of San Francisco, and at odds with the standards of ethical conduct those citizens expect from corporations based in the Bay Area, in our own communities as well as abroad."
The main human rights issues include:
Nigeria: Security forces flown in and closely supervised by Chevron Nigeria shot nonviolent environmental protestors in an infamous case that will be the focus of two trials in San Francisco later this year. Two people died, several others were injured and some survivors of the attack were then tortured in a Nigerian jail. One decade after the incident, and after years of legal wrangling in American courts, Chevron management has yet to compensate the families of those killed and injured or resolve the original issues raised by the community.
Burma: Chevron's Yadana pipeline has provided revenues that have propped up the country's repressive military dictatorship, while security forces guarding the pipeline have been accused of rape, murder and forced labor. The pipeline has also had significant direct and indirect environmental impacts on the Tenassirm region, one of the largest surviving tracts of tropical rainforest in Southeast Asia, including illegal logging, fishing and poaching. Meanwhile, the pipeline has exacerbated the human rights abuses perpetrated by Burmese security forces against the region's Mon, Karen and Tavoyans indigenous peoples. Naw Musi, a Karen woman who lives in exile, will attend the shareholder's meeting.
Ecuador: Chevron faces an environmental damages claim of between $7 billion and $16 billion for causing what experts believe is the most extensive oil-related contamination on the planet. Chevron had admitted to deliberately dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways and abandoning almost 1,000 open-air toxic waste pits, leading to the decimation of indigenous groups. A court-appointed special master recently found 428 deaths from cancer in the region related to Chevron's oil operations. In addition, community leaders heading the lawsuit have been subject to death threats, office break-ins, and assaults that have resulted in protective measures being ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Community leader Luis Yanza, recently awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, will lead a delegation of Ecuadorians that includes Emergildo Criollo, a Cofan indigenous leader.
United States: In Richmond, in the East Bay, 35,000 families live in the shadow of a Chevron refinery that spewed out three million pounds of contaminants during the last three years. Existing pollution from Chevron already causes premature death, cancer, and other health ailments. Richmond asthma rates are 5x the state level. Now Chevron wants to expand the refinery, allowing it to process both more and dirtier crude oil, despite overwhelming opposition from local residents. Most of the people who live in the area are minorities, leading to charges of environmental racism.
Concern about Chevron's apparent disregard for human rights has now spilled over to Chevron's shareholders and San Ramon staff. A source within the company has said employees at San Ramon are now increasingly preoccupied by the constant flow of negative news, particularly from Ecuador, and are waiting for CEO David O'Reilly to show leadership on the issue. Meanwhile, shareholders have filed two resolutions, to be voted on at tomorrow's AGM. One requests that Chevron management report to them regarding the company's human rights and environmental policies. The resolution was fileed by New York City Common Retirement Fund, one of the largest institutional investors in the U.S., and Trillium Asset Management. Another, from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, requires Chevron to finally adopt a global human rights policy.
Ms. Soltani added: "Chevron has demonstrated a pattern of gross human rights abuses around the world that is extremely disturbing. It appears to have systemic roots in the way Chevron operates. These problems threaten to severely damage Chevron's competitive position and global brand, and cost shareholders significant amounts of money.
"So far Chevron CEO David O'Reilly has proven unable to address these issues effectively. Mr. O'Reilly either needs to decisively rectify Chevron's abuses or make way for a new leader who can."