Chevron Feels the Heat: Annual Shareholder Meeting Brings Huge Protests For Oil Giant's Abuses Around the World
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Humberto Piaquaje, a leader of the Secoya tribe in the Ecuadorian Amazon said, "We have fought for nearly 20 years to bring Chevron to justice, and finally, we have a court judgment that affirms what we have been saying all this time. The court, which Chevron chose, found them guilty of poisoning our rainforest and our families. With this verdict, we have come north to demand that Chevron cease its lies and pay to clean up the contamination that is choking our communities."
"We are the human face of Chevron's operations, armed with the memories of our dead relatives, our neighbors, our sick children," said Carmen Zambrano, a plaintiff and mother from Shushufindi, Ecuador. "Chevron has been found guilty and we cannot wait any longer. We are here as living proof that the health crisis in our home is urgent and it will not go away, and we are confronting Chevron in person to demand that the company take responsibility."
Residents of neighboring Richmond, in which Chevron operates a refinery, also attended, expressing concerns about the refinery's effects on residents' health and the area's environment. They provided a tour yesterday of areas affected by the contamination. When Richmond resident Reverend Kenneth Davis attempted to hand a copy of the "True Cost of Chevron" report to Chevron CEO Watson, he was stopped by private security guards.
Pressure also came from other areas, though, including shareholders in the company, such as the trustee for New York's largest pension fund. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who serves as trustee for the $140 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund, argued for Chevron to resolve the situation to avoid protracted and costly litigation, stating "It is time to face reality." Di Napoli continued, "The entire case is looming like a hammer over shareholder's heads. Chevron should start fresh with a new approach that embraces environmental responsibility ... More legal proceedings will only delay the inevitable."
Shareholders attending the meeting also expressed concern about the effect of hydraulic facturing or fracking on the environment. Fracking involves drilling of hard rock in order to extract natural gas. It has been criticized for its devastating effects on the environment, which include, among other things, the contamination of ground water though chemicals used in drilling, pollution of air quality, and the creation of toxic waste.
Chevron did not return calls requesting an interview.
Tina Gerhardt is an independent journalist who covers climate change. Her work has appeared in Alternet, Grist, In These Times, The Progressive and The Nation, on GRIT tv, WBAI and the National Radio Project.