San Francisco Chronicle
Chevron owes more to Richmond and California
Friday, July 17, 2009
This week, Fortune magazine released its list of the 500 l argest
corporations in the world. With a nearly 25 percent increase in its
revenues from 2007, Chevron Corp. moved from the sixth to the fifth
largest corporation in the world. Only 36 countries on the planet had
GDPs larger than Chevron's $263 billion in 2008 revenues.
By revenue, Chevron is the largest corporation in California, the
second-largest U.S. oil corporation and the third-largest corporation
in the nation. Chevron's nearly $24 billion in profits for 2008 were
its largest on record and the fourth-highest profits of any corporation
in the world. Chevron's profits have increased every year since 2002,
increasing by an astounding 2,100 percent. Those who have not benefited
are the Richmond community, the site of Chevron's oldest refinery, and
the state of California.
In November, Richmond voters passed Measure T. At the current price of
oil, it would provide the city with an additional $16 million annually
from Chevron (adding 11 percent to the city's tax revenues). Chevron
sued, challenging the new tax.
Chevron has also repeatedly blocked state initiatives to impose a
severance tax on oil extracted in the state. California is the only
major oil producing state in the nation without such a tax. It is
estimated that imposition of a severance tax could bring in over $1
billion a year to the California state budget.
Moreover, the Los Angeles Times reports Chevron's role in lobbying to
keep initiatives to increase corporate taxation more broadly off the
table in the state's budget negotiations. The Chevron Richmond refinery
is already the largest industrial polluter in the Bay Area. The
Environmental Protection Agency reported nearly 100,000 pounds of toxic
waste from the site in 2007, including more than 4,000 pounds of
benzene, a known human carcinogen. The refinery is now, and has been,
listed as in "high priority violation" of air compliance standards,
among other violations, by the EPA every year since at least 2006.
Chevron now wants to retool the refinery to burn heavier crude that can
be much more polluting than lighter grades. The senior scientist at
Richmond's Communities for a Better Environment has found no
technological fix available to ensure that a refinery can mitigate this
type of pollution. CBE joined other community health and environmental
groups to block the retooling, and the court ruled in their favor. The
groups are now asking the city to better regulate the refinery by
specifically capping the type of crude it can refine to ban the heavier
more polluting grades. Chevron has said it plans to appeal the ruling.
(It will also give Richmond community programs $565,000 in grants
connected to the project.)
Unfortunately, Chevron had already begun construction at the refinery
and subsequently laid off 1,100 workers. Community groups have asked
Chevron to instead work on necessary upgrades they hav e been demanding
for years to make the refinery cleaner and safer - work that would
create many jobs. More beneficial to the long-term health of all who
live in the city - including refinery workers - is not only a cleaner
and safer refinery, but a company willing to give back to the
communities within which it operates and the state it calls home.
Antonia Juhasz is the director of the Chevron program at Global Exchange in San Francisco.
This article appeared on page A - 15 of the San Francisco Chronicle