Eye on the Amazon

The Chevron Way: Admit Nothing. Deny Everything. Make Counter-accusations.

Every year, a larger band of human rights and environmental activists show up at the Chevron shareholders meeting to stubbornly speak truth to power. It's essential to do so, and as I reported to the protesters outside after exiting the meeting, this is the one time that the Chevron CEO, board, and senior management are forced to listen to us. Yesterday, there were more climate and human rights speakers than at any shareholder meeting I have been to in the last dozen years. It's fair to say we dominated the event and we made sure our voices were heard.

Only a week after "Anti-Chevron Day" protests took place in five different countries (including a protest at Chevron's Richmond refinery), activists came out once again to target the "worst corporate actor on the planet." From deliberately dumping 16 billion gallons of toxic oil waste in the Amazon (which it refuses to clean up) to criminally neglecting safety measures leading to its Richmond refinery exploding and sending 15,000 local community members to the hospital, Chevron is in a class of its own. In fact, this year Chevron won another award for being the "Corporate Bully of the Year" because of its abusive legal tactics and the harassment and intimidation of its critics.

Alongside the Amazon Watch team were representatives from Stand.Earth, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Idle No More SF Bay, Protect the Protest, and the Gwich'in Steering Committee. Chevron's management was confronted not only by us, but there were also five different shareholder resolutions targeting Chevron's failing human rights and environmental records as well as climate-harming activities. Shareholders controlling billions of dollars of Chevron stock voted in favor of each resolution, although they were not expected to gain a majority vote.

In addition to being directly challenged for lying about the Ecuador disaster, Chevron was hammered for its poor environmental and human rights record, plans to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC, the shadowy climate change-denying organization that uses corporate contributions to push right-wing legislation), its failure to take real action on climate change, and wasting shareholder funds on unethical attacks against its critics. Time and again, Wirth could do nothing more than repeat a scripted dismissal and await the next speaker to bring up another embarrassing example of Chevron's bad actions.

Tilisia Sisto, a Gwich'in Steering Committee representative who traveled "halfway across the world" from her home in Alaska, said Wirth "told shareholders and the board lies about how 'clean' and 'safe' drilling in the Arctic would be, not the truth about the impact of drilling on my people and on our global climate."

Although they were unable to attend in person this year, Amazon Watch delivered a message from the affected communities in Ecuador which read, in part:

"What happened on May 21st for International Anti-Chevron Day is a sample of what the company can expect every year: more than 290 organizations demonstrated against Chevron this year. We will continue to denounce the crime that Chevron committed until it takes responsibility for the environmental damage for which Texaco – which merged with Chevron in 2001 – is wholly responsible. We want you to understand that we – the affected Indigenous and campesino communities will not falter until we have achieved our goal that your company pay for its crime and remediate our Amazon rainforest."

In keeping with Chevron's racist and patronizing position, Wirth once again claimed that the "true tragedy" in Ecuador is "greedy trial lawyers manipulating Indigenous peoples." Chevron's propaganda was even more Orwellian than in past years, with Wirth now denying even the existence of scientific evidence of the contamination in Ecuador!

Hiding behind these transparent lies will not save Chevron from justice, as the Ecuadorian people and the global community who support them continue the call for true accountability.

Despite Wirth's cowardice and denials, we left encouraged and reinvigorated as we reported back to the protesters gathered outside and online supporters. Chevron's CEO and management know that we will always show up to call them out, and our allies around the globe continue to multiply.

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