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Chevron Hit With One-Two Punch In Richmond, California

RICHMOND, CA.–Last Friday and Saturday were busy days for progressive mayor Gayle McLaughlin, She’s the earnest, laborious-working, and often embattled political chief of this blue-collar city of a hundred,000, where the biggest industrial employer is Chevron. McLaughlin had attorneys to confer with, reporters to transient, and then tons of of out-of-town guests to greet. Some had never been to Richmond before and one travelled all the best way from Vermont to speak fact to energy and then get arrested here.

In a one-two punch in opposition to Richmond’s century-previous refinery, McLaughlin first called a press conference on Friday to announce that Richmond was suing Chevron. Twenty-4 hours later, she marched to the oil firm’s principal gate with 350.org co-founder Invoice McKibben and several thousand other global warming opponents.

There, more than 200 protesters engaged in peaceful civil disobedience, with the perfect-promoting creator from Middlebury Faculty leading the way in which. The most important anti-Chevron demonstration in Richmond’s history was organized by 350.org, as a part of its nationwide “Summer season Heat” campaign. To its credit, the sponsoring organization worked intently with the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) and other teams to insure that native concerns had been correctly linked to nationwide and international ones.

The authorized action in opposition to Chevron on Friday, adopted by direct motion over the weekend, marked the primary anniversary of the hearth and explosion that created a towering plume of toxic smoke on August 6, 2012. Refinery employees who responded to this emergency narrowly escaped demise in the now a lot-investigated accident. Greater than 15,000 people within the Richmond area sought emergency room care after being showered with fall-out from the blast.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board uncovered evidence that, more than a decade ago, Chevron’s own engineers recommended restore work on the corroded pipe at fault. Cal/OSHA cited Chevron for eleven “willful” security violations and imposed the largest nice in the company’s history, a one million dollar penalty that the corporate is contesting. Chevron says it has paid $10 million to reimburse native hospitals and fulfill a number of the 24,000 claims filed by people affected by the fire. It also simply pleaded no contest to six fees filed by state and local prosecutors and agreed to pay $2 million in fines and restitution.

Richmond’s try to hunt additional compensation for its citizenry led to a settlement proposal reported to be $10 million or much less. (To maintain that amount in perspective, please observe that Chevron just reported barely depressed second quarter income of $5.37 billion!) In July, the usually-fractious city council voted unanimously to pursue environmental justice before a decide and jury in Contra Costa County Superior Court. Richmond’s injury suit alleges that last year’s mishap reflected “years of neglect, lax oversight, and company indifference to obligatory security inspection and repairs.”

Summer time Heat
The colorful 2-mile march on Saturday focused attention on Chevron’s past misbehavior in Richmond and its continuing position in global warming everywhere. Pupil and group activists, 350.org supporters from throughout northern California, and a lively contingent of commerce unionists assembled near the city’s BART station. Their banners and indicators highlighted the calls for of earlier “Summer season Heat” protests in Maine, Michigan, Massachusetts, Utah, and different states: “No more toxic hazards, no Keystone XL pipeline, no refining tar ands or fracked crude–Yes, to a simply transition from fossil fuels to union jobs in clear benzoic acid workshop energy!”

The line of march took the protestors from town middle, past Kaiser Permanente and our large Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad yard, and on into the little village of Pt. Richmond. “The purpose, ” as locals call it, has a half-mile pier jutting out into the San Francisco Bay, where 600-ton tankers dock every day to gasoline the refinery, certainly one of California’s leading producers of greenhouse gases.

At the top of the march, rally rhetoric flowed freely from the again of a choose-up truck, armed with massive portable amps. It was parked in front of a Freeway 580 overpass, with Chevron storage tanks clearly seen on the ridge behind the plant. The speakers reflected rising diversity within the native environmental motion. Native-Americans led off, followed by African American, Laotian, and Latino critics of “local weather chaos.”

Wearing a black, Russian-fashion fur hat, with a small crimson star on it, West County Toxics Coalition chief Henry Clark demanded that Chevron “compensate individuals for damages to them and their community.” Clark recalled a protracted history of corporate influence and pollution problems in Richmond, drawing cheers when he angrily declared: “This ain’t no damn company town. That is the people’s city!”

He was adopted by Communities for a greater Environment organizer Andres Soto. After safely marshaling the crowd from downtown to the refinery, Soto denounced “Chevron’s stooges on the town council” — two conservative black Democrats who have benefited from the a number of million dollars the corporate has spent on latest municipal elections. Retired Richmond teacher and RPA activist Eduardo Martinez spoke about the worth paid by these down-wind from Chevron. At the varsity where he as soon as taught, college students with breathing problems formed an after-faculty group often known as “the asthma membership” because they couldn’t take part in regular sports activity.

Political Pollution
When Martinez obtained fed up and ran for a metropolis council seat last year, Chevron spent practically $200,000 to smear and defeat him. (“I never knew I used to be worth that much,” he advised the rally.) For the health of town and its youngsters, “Chevron must cease world crude oil price chart polluting the democratic course of,” he declared.

Doria Robinson, the young, dreadlock sporting director of Urban Tilth, described the affect of final year’s fire on the dozen community gardens her group tends around the town. Urban Tilth had to pull up and throwaway the fruits of six-months worth of vegetable rising due to attainable contamination. Chevron, she stated, “did not pay something for what they did to our gardens.” Urban Tilth geared up the marchers on Saturday with lengthy-stemmed sunflowers “that help take toxics out of the soil and mirror the facility of the sun,” she explained. On command from the stage, the vivid yellow flowers were held aloft, like glow sticks at a rock concert, creating an impromptu sunflower discipline in the course of Richmond Parkway.

The rock stars at this venue have been sixty one-yr outdated McLaughlin, and the nationally recognized McKibben. Launched as a “true warrior for Mom Earth,” the mayor reported on her recent meeting with Kory Judd, Chevron’s new basic supervisor in Richmond. Judd has been out in the neighborhoods, affably world crude oil price chart reassuring everyone that his employer has no plans to run Canadian tar sand crude via its personal reliable pipes. As McLaughlin insisted in her temporary speech, Chevron nonetheless “needs a new tradition of safety” and its East Bay neighbors need “overall emissions lowered so future generations have the proper to reside and breath on a planet that’s sustainable.”

The tall, lanky McKibben took the stage in sneakers, denims, a plaid shirt and baseball cap. With his arm around his spouse, he looked a bit like he had just won the tractor-pull on the Champlain Valley Truthful back home. He noted that Richmond was the one cease on his current protest tour where 350.org had acquired such pink carpet therapy from city hall. He praised the demonstration’s “big labor contingent”–which included activists from the California Nurses Affiliation, UNITE Right here, AFSCME, ILWU, IWW, CWA, and OUR Walmart (but not many Steelworkers from inside the refinery).

Going Photo voltaic
McKibben expressed optimism concerning the persevering with battle to dam the Keystone pipeline but warned about the worldwide warming impression of Chevron being allowed to burn by way of its 9 billion barrels price of petroleum reserves. Looking up on the now bright skies over Point Richmond, our Inexperienced Mountain visitor wryly observed that we have been experiencing a “photo voltaic spill” and bemoaned “all of the solar that is going to waste.” The day will come, he predicted, “when Chevron will turn out to be an energy company that works on the solar and the wind or they’ll exit of business.”

At that time in the proceedings, the time had come for an unlawful sit-down, which pressed nearer to the plant gate. The civil disobedient confronted off against a well-equipped squad of Richmond’s most interesting. Some officers appeared a bit over-dressed for the occasion. But they have been ably overseen, per normal, by Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus, not too long ago hailed in the lefty East Bay Express as “a top cop who will get it.” Among the white armband wearers patiently waiting to be cuffed and charged was a ninety-year old lady who came to the protest with her grandson. (After processing, all these arrested had been launched and the charges dropped.)

Along with their now wilting sunflowers, some protesters on the sidelines were nonetheless passing around an unusual full-web page advert from the Saturday version of The Contra Costa Occasions. It was paid for by the government of Ecuador, a brand new pal of our city located even further away than Vermont. No strangers to the rigors of suing Chevron (of their case, over the dumping of toxic waste within the Amazon area), the Ecuadorans world crude oil price chart expressed solidarity “with the folks of Richmond on their day of protest in regards to the catastrophe and its aftermath.” Said the ad: “In the fight against Chevron, the people of Ecuador and the individuals of Richmond can deploy probably the most devastating weapon ever invented…the reality.”

Journalists Steve Early and Suzanne Gordon are new neighbors of Chevron and members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance. They’re working on a book in regards to the intersection of race, class, immigration, environmental, and financial development issues in Richmond.

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