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Chevron’s Dirty Legacy Felt from Brazil to the Bay Area

Chevron’s been making headlines recently, and not good ones. The oil and gas giant is in deep water over a recent oil spill in Brazil and the company was the source of a massive explosion on August 6th at an oil refinery plant in Richmond, California, just miles from San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. The explosion resulted in a “shelter in place” order and sent hundreds of area residents to local hospitals complaining of shortness of breath and chest pain.

Chevron, however, continues to downplay each of these incidences. In Brazil, the company has been appealing a case where an estimated 3,000 barrels of oil leaked into the ocean at Frade fields. While the Brazilian government ruled the company is to pay $25 million in damages and cease production for a few months, the company argues that it “followed standard industry practices in response to the spill and that it is actively preparing to restart production at the Frade facility.”

Back in California, the company hosted a town hall meeting the night after the Richmond explosion in an attempt to defray concern, even offering to compensate victims of the blowout. In the end, however, no matter how many town hall meetings are held or how much money is dished out to suffering residents, the company will continue to go on with business as usual. Of course, the incident does mean that gas prices will rise to over $4 a gallon on the west coast as this particular refinery, one of the largest in the nation, produces about 150,000 barrels of gasoline a day, the equivalent to 16 percent of the region’s daily gasoline consumption.

Nonetheless, the bigger picture rings loud and clear: the fight for environmental justice, renewables and cleaner energy alternatives remains a difficult and bought-out uphill battle, both in the Bay Area, Brazil and beyond. When oil spills or refinery explosions happen, there is immediate public outcry and rage, but, in time, people return to their daily lives, much of which, ironically, involves consuming various forms of fossil fuel. It’s a personal and economic conundrum to say the least and companies like Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and BP remain some of the richest entities on Earth, with profits continuing to soar in the face of climate change and social injustice.
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