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Chevron Hit With One-Two Punch In Richmond, California

RICHMOND, CA.–Final Friday and Saturday were busy days for progressive mayor Gayle McLaughlin, She’s the earnest, onerous-working, and often embattled political chief of this blue-collar metropolis of a hundred,000, the place the most important industrial employer is Chevron. McLaughlin had lawyers to confer with, reporters to brief, after which a whole lot of out-of-town guests to greet. Some had never been to Richmond before and one travelled all the way in which from Vermont to talk reality to energy and then get arrested right here.

In a one-two punch in opposition to Richmond’s century-outdated refinery, McLaughlin first known as a press convention on Friday to announce that Richmond was suing Chevron. Twenty-4 hours later, she marched to the oil firm’s predominant gate with 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben and a number of other thousand different international warming opponents.

There, more than 200 protesters engaged in peaceful civil disobedience, with the perfect-selling creator from Middlebury Faculty leading the way. The most important anti-Chevron demonstration in Richmond’s history was organized by 350.org, as a part of its nationwide “Summer Heat” campaign. To its credit, the sponsoring group worked intently with the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) and different groups to insure that local issues were properly linked to national and worldwide ones.

The authorized motion towards 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 oil journals August 6, Coal 2012. Refinery staff who responded to this emergency narrowly escaped dying within the now a lot-investigated accident. Greater than 15,000 individuals within the Richmond space sought emergency room care after being showered with fall-out from the blast.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board uncovered proof that, greater than a decade in the past, Chevron’s own engineers really useful repair work on the corroded pipe at fault. Cal/OSHA cited Chevron for eleven “willful” security violations and imposed the most important wonderful within the company’s history, a a million dollar penalty that the corporate is contesting. Chevron says it has paid $10 million to reimburse local hospitals and satisfy a few of the 24,000 claims filed by individuals affected by the fireplace. It additionally simply pleaded no contest to six charges 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 less. (To maintain that amount in perspective, please notice that Chevron just reported slightly depressed second quarter profits of $5.37 billion!) In July, the usually-fractious metropolis council voted unanimously to pursue environmental justice earlier than a choose and jury in Contra Costa County Superior Courtroom. Richmond’s damage suit alleges that final year’s mishap reflected “years of neglect, lax oversight, and corporate indifference to mandatory safety inspection and repairs.”

Summer Heat
The colorful 2-mile march on Saturday targeted attention on Chevron’s past misbehavior in Richmond and its persevering with function in world warming in all places. Scholar and community activists, 350.org supporters from throughout northern California, and a lively contingent of trade unionists assembled near the city’s BART station. Their banners and signs highlighted the demands of earlier “Summer time 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 power!”

The road of march took the protestors from the town center, previous Kaiser Permanente and our big 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, the place 600-ton tankers dock on daily basis to fuel the refinery, one among California’s leading producers of greenhouse gases.

At the end of the march, rally rhetoric flowed freely from the back of a pick-up truck, armed with massive portable amps. It was parked in front of a Highway 580 overpass, with Chevron storage tanks clearly seen on the ridge behind the plant. The audio system mirrored rising range in the native environmental motion. Native-People led off, followed by African American, Laotian, and Latino critics of “local weather chaos.”

Carrying a black, Russian-type fur hat, with a small crimson star on it, West County Toxics Coalition leader Henry Clark demanded that Chevron “compensate people for damages to them and their neighborhood.” Clark recalled a protracted historical past of company influence and pollution issues in Richmond, drawing cheers when he angrily declared: “This ain’t no rattling firm city. This is the people’s city!”

He was adopted by Communities for a better Surroundings organizer Andres Soto. After safely marshaling the group from downtown to the refinery, Soto denounced “Chevron’s stooges on the city council” — two conservative black Democrats who’ve benefited from the several million dollars the corporate has spent on recent municipal elections. Retired Richmond trainer and RPA activist Eduardo Martinez spoke about the value paid by these down-wind from Chevron. At the varsity the place he as soon as taught, students with respiration problems formed an after-college group generally known as “the asthma club” because they could not take part in common sports activities activity.

Political Pollution
When Martinez received fed up and ran for a metropolis council seat last 12 months, Chevron spent nearly $200,000 to smear and defeat him. (“I by no means knew I was value that a lot,” he advised the rally.) For the health of the town and its children, “Chevron should stop polluting the democratic course of,” he declared.

Doria Robinson, the young, dreadlock carrying director of Urban Tilth, described the impression of last yr’s fire on the dozen community gardens her group tends around town. City Tilth had to drag up and throwaway the fruits of six-months value of vegetable rising due to potential contamination. Chevron, she mentioned, “did not pay anything for what they did to our oil journals gardens.” City Tilth equipped the marchers on Saturday with long-stemmed sunflowers “that assist take toxics out of the soil and replicate the facility of the solar,” she explained. On command from the stage, the brilliant yellow flowers have been held aloft, like glow sticks at a rock concert, creating an impromptu sunflower discipline in the midst of Richmond Parkway.

The rock stars at this venue were sixty one-year old McLaughlin, and the nationally oil journals known McKibben. Introduced as a “true warrior for Mother Earth,” the mayor reported on her latest assembly with Kory Judd, Chevron’s new basic manager in Richmond. Judd has been out in the neighborhoods, affably reassuring everybody that his employer has no plans to run Canadian tar sand crude via its own reliable pipes. As McLaughlin insisted in her temporary speech, Chevron nonetheless “wants a brand new culture of safety” and its East Bay neighbors need “total emissions diminished so future generations have the precise to dwell and breath on a planet that is sustainable.”

The tall, lanky McKibben took the stage in sneakers, jeans, a plaid shirt and baseball cap. Together with his arm around his spouse, he looked a bit like he had simply won the tractor-pull on the Champlain Valley Truthful again house. He noted that Richmond was the only cease on his present protest tour where 350.org had obtained such purple carpet therapy from metropolis hall. He praised the demonstration’s “enormous labor contingent”–which included activists from the California Nurses Affiliation, UNITE Right here, AFSCME, ILWU, IWW, CWA, and OUR Walmart (however not many Steelworkers from inside the refinery).

Going Solar
McKibben expressed optimism concerning the continuing struggle to dam the Keystone pipeline but warned about the global warming influence of Chevron being allowed to burn by means of its nine billion barrels price of petroleum reserves. Trying up on the now shiny skies over Point Richmond, our Green Mountain visitor wryly observed that we were experiencing a “solar spill” and bemoaned “all of the sun that’s going to waste.” The day will come, he predicted, “when Chevron will develop into an vitality firm that works on the solar and the wind or they are going to exit of business.”

At that time in the proceedings, the time had come for an illegal sit-down, which pressed nearer to the plant gate. The civil disobedient confronted off towards a effectively-equipped squad of Richmond’s best. Some officers appeared just a little over-dressed for the occasion. However they had been ably overseen, per usual, by Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus, recently hailed within the lefty East Bay Specific as “a prime cop who will get it.” Among the white armband wearers patiently waiting to be cuffed and charged was a ninety-yr old girl who got here to the protest along with her grandson. (After processing, all those arrested had been launched and the fees dropped.)

Along with their now wilting sunflowers, some protesters on the sidelines have been nonetheless passing round an unusual full-web page ad from the Saturday version of The Contra Costa Occasions. It was paid for by the federal government of Ecuador, a brand new friend of our metropolis positioned even additional away than Vermont. No strangers to the rigors of suing Chevron (of their case, over the dumping of toxic waste within the Amazon region), the Ecuadorans expressed solidarity “with the individuals of Richmond on their day of protest concerning the disaster and its aftermath.” Stated the ad: “Within the combat towards Chevron, the individuals of Ecuador and the people of Richmond can deploy essentially 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 e-book concerning the intersection of race, class, immigration, environmental, and economic improvement issues in Richmond.