25 May 2010
A day before Chevron's annual shareholder meeting, about 20 protesters gathered at the company's offices on Smith Street and held a press conference to accuse the oil company of environmental pollution and human rights abuses around the world.
The group, made up of representatives from around the U.S. and countries such as Nigeria, Ecuador, Australia and Kazakhstan, explained how Chevron operations in their communities resulted in pollution, environmental and financial loss, and health issues.
Their stories are included in The True Cost of Chevron, an alternative annual report put together by a coalition of 35 organizations and written by 50 authors from 16 countries and 10 states.
The protesters plan to hold a rally at Chevron headquarters and attend the shareholder meeting tomorrow. A public forum will be held tonight at Rice University from 6 to 8 p.m.
Mariana Jimenez, a 71-year-old from the Sucumbio Province in Ecuador, was at the press conference to represent the people in her community.
"I want to expose these lies to the world, to expose the lies that Chevron tells the shareholders and public about what they've done in Ecuador," Jimenez said. "And to force this company to clean up the Ecuadorian Amazon and to avoid that this catastrophe happens anywhere else, because people need to live with dignity. They need to live in a safe environment and their human rights need to be protected."
As four Houston PD officers and a number of security officers on bicycles looked on, Jimenez and other community leaders spoke of disasters in their communities.
Jimenez described contaminated rivers, animals dying and people suffering from nausea, cancer and tuberculosis.
Elias Mateus Isaac from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa in Angola talked about his country's seashores being contaminated by oil and its fishing industry being destroyed.
Last week, Angola passed a law to import 90,000 tons of fish from Namibia and South Africa, he said.
"This has never happened before and it shows the impact of Chevron's operations."
Isaac called for Chevron to take measures to stop contaminating the waters and to look for alternative measures for energy.
But while Chevron officials said people have a right to protest if they have legitimate concerns, the company contests the legitimacy of the report.
"We certainly welcome constructive criticism. What you're seeing today and what you'll see tomorrow is not constructive," Morgan Crinklaw, external communications adviser, said. "It's misleading and it's inaccurate. We don't give their report any credibility."
Crinklaw said the information in the company's Corporate Responsibility Report is the accurate portrayal of what Chevron does around the world. He noted that the company adopted a human rights policy in 2009 and will implement it across the company over the next four years.
A Chevron spokesman also pointed out that its Corporate Responsibility Report has been verified by a third party, Lloyd's Register.
"If you look at their report, they say things and then attribute them to Chevron even if they're not Chevron's fault," Crinklaw said.
He used Nigeria as an example. Much of the problem in that country is that pipelines are attacked. The oil then goes into the waterways and the fishermen aren't compensated, because the spill was caused by people sabotaging the pipes, not by the company, Crinklaw said.
"If Chevron ever does have instances where there's a spill, we compensate the fishermen in the area, we clean it up and we make sure we work with them to make sure that they have a sustained livelihood."
A representative from Burma was at the event to accuse Chevron of human rights violations for partnering with the "brutal" military regime for operation security in Myanmar. Chevron press official Lloyd Avram said though the company has a 20 percent stake in a joint venture partnership with Total in Myanmar, it is a non-operating partner and is not responsible for those operations. Chevron's CR report also notes that as a "responsible nonoperator," Chevron has contacted the former U.N. special envoy to Myanmar to encourage U.N. engagement.
Dave Sampson, Chevron's general manager of public affairs, also told the protesters, who had crowded into the building lobby signs and all, that their report was inaccurate. He said he would provide the group with a list of inaccuracies at a later date.
Antonia Juhasz, the report's editor, said she was very interested in hearing what Chevron had to say. She defends the report and its 50 authors of delivering an "absolutely correct, factual representation" of Chevron's operations.
"This is the second year that they've said the report has inaccuracies in which they have failed to produce any evidence," Juhasz said. "I'm eager to discuss any point in this report that they find inaccurate and I'm eager to hear their proof as to the inaccuracies."