RICHMOND—Last Friday, climate activists organized the 8th annual Anti-Chevron Day in front of the Chevron Richmond Refinery. Many who participated are residents that live in close proximity to the refinery and shared the impacts they endured. For many, this is a life-long battle that has daily effects.
“A lot of times these clouds are clouds that Chevron is polluting in our air,” said Isabella Zizi of Idle No More SF Bay, who also grew up living near the refinery. “The last time I tracked [the pollution], it was probably about a month ago when they were polluting excessive plumes of smoke in the air.”
The crowd painted two large murals on the ground—one saying “we are here to protect climate and communities” and painted as a sun, while the other said “fossil fuels are over” with a skull that has the Chevron logo painted on its forehead.
To Isabella, these messages convey what her community currently needs.
“We are the living truth, and we are wanting the truth to continue—that we need a fossil-free community, a fossil-free world that no longer pollutes, that we are able to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live and grow beautiful food on a beautiful land of our Mother Earth.”
Back in February, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) released numerous reports showing various leakages from the Chevron refinery, resulting in a massive spill of nearly 600 gallons into the Bay followed by a cleanup. The refinery also had many flarings over the years, with the most recent one that occurred on May 14.
Speakers at the event highlighted years of pollution from Chevron. The company’s history of pollution didn’t start in Richmond. From the 1960s to 1990, Chevron-Texaco dumped more than 16 billion gallons of toxic wastewater and 17 million gallons of crude oil in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest. Tribes and farmers that inhabited the area filed a lawsuit in 1993 to demand justice and pay for the massive cleanup. Chevron won the lawsuit in 2018 and signed an agreement with Ecuador in 1998—acquitted of further responsibility.
Paul Paz y Miño, Associate Director of Amazon Watch, found this unconscionable but remained hopeful as momentum builds around this case.
“Their attacks are backfiring,” he said. “There has never been more attention to what Chevron did in Ecuador than in the last week, than there was in 10 years. But guess what? It’s opened back up—we’ve exposed their environmental racism.”
Steven Donzinger, a lawyer who battled Chevron for two decades over the Ecuadorian pollution, has been on house arrest since August 2019. He was able to win a 2011 $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron in an Ecuadorian court. However, Chevron has yet to pay for the cleanup and instead took legal action against Donzinger, which resulted in his house arrest and losing his law license.
Former Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin spoke at the event in support of Donzinger.
“In reality, it is them [Chevron] that are telling bold-faced lies again and again to protect their profits,” she said. “We have to support Steven Donzinger and support giving that due amount of money, which is billions to the community in the rainforest.”
Photo by Brooke Anderson