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The 5 Most Toxic Energy Companies and How They Control Our Politics

Energy companies continue to rake in massive profits. They use this wealth to leverage elections, write legislation, scale back regulations and escape accountability.

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In case you thought Chevron was all oil -- it's definitely not. "Chevron has acquired nearly five million net acres of shale gas assets in the United States, Canada, Poland and Romania," according to George Kirkland, Chevron's vice chairman. The company has been making aggressive strides to leverage its power in the Marcellus region of the eastern U.S. where oil and gas companies are hoping to have a drilling field day.

At the beginning of 2011 Chevron picked up Atlas Energy for $4.3 billion, a company with major holdings in the Marcellus. Then in May it announced that it had picked up an additional 228,000 leasehold acres in the Marcellus from Chief Oil and Gas.

You better believe that Chevron will be doing all it can to make sure that any attempts to ban or even regulate fracking in the Marcellus are quashed.

In fact,  Desmog Blog fingered Chevron as one of several big oil companies fronting an astroturf group called Energy in Depth, which alleged to be a collection of "small, independent oil and natural gas producers" but Brendan DeMelle has found exists courtesy of Big Oil. As DeMelle writes, "EID seems to attack everyone who attempts to investigate the significant problems posed by hydraulic fracturing and other natural gas industry practices that have been shown to threaten public health and water quality across America."

And even though Chevron hasn't spent as much money as Exxon Mobil (although it has come close), it sealed the top spot on this list because of its corporate irresponsibility, which seems strangely out of the Exxon playbook. 

Chevron's malfeasance is long, including a spill right now off the coast of Brazil which dumped over 110,000 gallons of oil into the Atlantic. But  Rainforest Action Network has more about the company:

Around the world, over and over again, Chevron's outdated practices and policies have consistently violated human rights, damaged human health, and worsened global warming.

In Kazakhstan, Chevron has contaminated land and water resources and impaired the health of local residents. In Canada's Alberta region, Chevron is invested in tar sands -- one of the most environmentally damaging projects on the planet. In the Niger Delta, Chevron is complicit in human rights violations committed by security forces against local people. In the Philippines, regular oil leaks and spills have sickened Manila residents. Chevron's operations in Burma are providing a financial lifeline to the Burmese military regime -- known for its appalling human rights record. In Western Australia, Chevron's liquefied natural gas facility threatens the health of local communities and fragile humpback whale and turtle populations.

But Chevron's worst legacy may be in Ecuador, where Texaco (now part of Chevron) spent 30 years decimating the ecologically rich Amazon rainforest and the many indigenous communities there.

As one of the campaigns seeking justice for Ecuadoreans reports:

Unlike the Exxon Valdez disaster that spilled over a billion gallons of crude during a one time cataclysmic event, Texaco's oil extraction system in Ecuador was designed, built, and operated on the cheap using substandard technology from the outset. This led to extreme, systematic pollution and exposure to toxins from multiple sources on a daily basis for almost three decades.

In a rainforest area roughly three times the size of Manhattan, Texaco carved out 350 oil wells, and upon leaving the country in 1992, left behind some 1,000 open toxic waste pits. Many of these pits leak into the water table or overflow in heavy rains, polluting rivers and streams that 30,000 people depend on for drinking, cooking, bathing and fishing. Texaco also dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic and highly saline "formation waters," a byproduct of the drilling process, into the rivers of the Oriente. At the height of Texaco's operations, the company was dumping an estimated 4 million gallons of formation waters per day, a practice outlawed in major US oil producing states like Louisiana, Texas, and California decades before the company began operations in Ecuador in 1967. By handling its toxic waste in Ecuador in ways that were illegal in its home country, Texaco saved an estimated $3 per barrel of oil produced.

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