On Wednesday, May 30, in solidarity with people from around the world coming to Chevron’s annual shareholders meeting at their San Ramon headquarters, Occupy Environmental Justice activists made our presence known outside Chevron’s San Francisco office at 345 California St. We creatively called attention to their reckless fossil fuel extraction practices, which include hydraulic fracturing in California. Hydraulic fracturing, aka “fracking”, is a toxic method of drilling for oil and gas in which water, sand and chemicals are injected under high pressure into the earth, endangering water, air, farmland, and increasing the possibility of earthquakes.

Chevron’s environmental atrocities are enormous and span the globe from South America to Africa, from California to Pennsylvania. Occupy activists were in San Ramon in the morning, with people from Ecuador, Brazil, Nigeria, Africa, Texas, and Richmond, CA. Chevron’s refinery in Richmond is the biggest greenhouse gas polluter in California. The people of Richmond, besides inhaling the toxins exhaled by the Chevron refinery and suffering health problems, have had to battle the billionaire corporation’s appeal of years of property taxes, and deceitful schemes to expand the refinery to be even more polluting. Some spoke inside the meeting, telling firsthand experiences of Chevron’s lethal impacts on their communities, and others made their presence known outside as the shareholders drove in, avoiding our eyes.

What those outraged by Chevron’s actions (or, non-actions when it comes to cleaning up oil spills) have in common is a realization that we are as healthy as the water, air, and food we take in, and when the elements which keep us alive are poisoned, so are our bodies. This truth is painfully real for communities of Ecuador, where families have cancer as a result of living with residual oil toxicity for decades. Chevron has been in a two-decade-long court battle to avoid taking responsibility for its toxic legacy in Ecuador. In the fishing communities of the Niger Delta, the waters are severely polluted from Chevron’s careless drilling. Chevron’s toxic reach extends to many other countries across the earth – see TrueCostofChevron.com for an Alternative Annual Report.

The importance of clean water and air has also hit home for many people in the United States whose homes and watersheds are becoming the property of gas and oil companies. These companies drill with increasingly damaging chemicals and increasingly high pressure, as hydraulic fracturing assaults more and more land, water, and health. Chevron is one of many companies engaged in the fracking process in the U.S., including California. While they are still in the “rushing to catch up” phase regarding fracking gas and oil wells, Chevron is attempting to greatly increase the demand for fracked gas by planning to build plants in Texas to process “natural” gas and turn it into plastic resin.

A few hours after the shareholder’s meeting, we gathered outside Chevron’s San Francisco office, with art and voices, to stand for the truth about this poisonous company and their poisonous practices, including hydraulic fracturing. Our banner listed alphabetically the chemicals used in fracking fluid – at 180 feet, we’re still only up to the A’s. Companies have been reluctant to disclose the chemicals they use, prompting some to call for more disclosure. The chemicals and health effects have been studied and are quite disturbing. (Source for banner is a congressional report available online http://tinyurl.com/FrackingChemicals). We do not feel that obtaining some more information about how and where people are poisoned should be the goal of the environmental movement when it comes to fracking. We believe it should be banned altogether, and had handouts to give to passersby explaining why.

Outside Chevron’s San Francisco office.

We also offered them free bottles of “Frackelicious FrackWater Unsustainable Energy Drink”, (water with food coloring and label) and asked them to sign away rights to drill under their land, risking kidney and endocrine damage, hair loss, skin rashes, and increased cancer risk. While there is no gas or oil shale underneath San Francisco homes, the situation of being deceptively coerced into leasing, and then subjected to poisoned water and air, is all too real for a growing number of victims of fracking. Yet it is also awakening great numbers of people who otherwise wouldn’t connect the dots about environmental poisoning – health – corruption of industry, and turned many into activists. The horrors of fracking are many: polluted wastewater, radioactivity brought up from the ground, inevitable well casing leakage, truck traffic and accidents, dangers to workers, tragic sand mining that destroys land and health in the midwest, industry control of government and exemption from environmental laws, and massive water use. Despite all of this, gas from fracking masquerades as a “clean energy”, yet that image is crumbling.

Californians should be aware that fracking is taking place in our state. Industry documents reveal that fracking is underway in Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo, Solano, Kern, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and Monterey counties. Fracking, especially near farmland, poses threats to statewide food and water supplies. This year Occidental Petroleum Corporation plans to frack 140 unconventional shale wells in CA – many in the Sacramento River watershed and the SF Bay Delta, which provides drinking water to over 23 million Californians. What’s more, hydraulic fracturing has been linked by the EPA and U.S. Geological Survey to earthquakes. The seismic vulnerability of California, our water shortage problems, and the amount of food grown here, should make fracking a serious concern.

All watersheds are sacred, and all life is interconnected and deserves respect, something companies like Chevron have no regard for, wherever they are in the world. Chevron, with 2011 profits of $26.9 billion, is an example of the ravenous greed of the 1% occupying, literally, our bloodstreams, lungs, and atmosphere. And of course, occupying our government. According to ThinkProgress.org, Chevron spent more than $9 million lobbying Congress in 2011, and contributed $467,996 to federal campaigns (91% to Republican candidates). The obscene influence of dirty energy companies on government is the reason that renewable energy receives such a small amount of financial and political will. Yet renewables still show amazing potential, and in greater numbers with growing organization and creativity, we are awakening and stepping up to the huge task of our time – to shift from fossil fuels and nuclear to conservation and clean renewable energy.

From Frackelicious: Chevron Protest Against Fracking

Calls to action – Call Chevron CEO John Watson – 925-842-3232 – and express your concern about Chevron’s toxic legacy in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where thousands of people are suffering from skin disease, cancer, and other illnesses. Ask the employee you speak to to urge Watson to do the right thing and clean up his company’s mess. (Speak respectfully so whoever answers/picks up the message will engage in the most useful dialog possible).

Call CA Governor Jerry Brown and ask that he ban hydraulic fracturing in the state of California – 916-445-2841. This will take a lot of pressure in order to happen, but it is possible. More news comes out every day about the environmental and political liabilities of fracking, and there may come a point when the disasters are not worth the industry bribes.

Call Obama and tell him fracked gas and oil are NOT “clean” energy sources, and that fracking is inherently dangerous beyond anything regulations can mitigate, it must be banned. Say that fossil fuels and nuclear are not “change”, they are a dead end for our planet. 202-456-1111.

Learn more about Chevron and the movements to hold them accountable:

http://truecostofchevron.com/ – Alternative annual report. Very informative.

http://ran.org/ – Creative non violent direct action campaigns on behalf of the forests, their inhabitants, and the natural systems that sustain life.

http://www.richmondprogressivealliance.net/index.html – Progressive leadership in the community breathing in the pollution from Chevron’s Richmond refinery

Keep in touch with, and support if you can, these groups fighting fracking in CA:

http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/take-action/in-your-community/pacific-region/ – Working for clean, un-privatized water and food, and for a ban on fracking in CA and across the country.

http://www.facebook.com/StopFrackingLosAngeles – (“Stop Fracking California State”, news and calls to action about fracking, focusing on California)

And nationally:

http://ecowatch.org/2012/citizens-announce-nations-largest-ever-fracking-rally-in-washington-d-c/ – Consider coming to D.C for this rally, July 28th, and spread the word.

http://www.owsstopfracking.org/ – Occupy Well Street. Something we should all support and learn from.

gaslandthemovie.com – Watch/host a screening. See “Scientific facts/Affirming Gasland” to see how slimy the industry is in countering the truth.

http://endocrinedisruption.com – scientific facts on chemicals used in drilling and other industries.

Learn more about the problems:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-f-kennedy-jr/petro-plutocracy_b_1498524.html – How Citizens United gives petroleum companies o b s c e n e control, and how much of that connects to fracking.

And the solutions!

http://grist.org/renewable-energy/the-truth-about-renewable-energy-inexpensive-reliable-and-inexhaustible/ – Fantastic article about renewable energy. Please share!

Please write to us if you have questions, or would like to offer help/support/your creative energy! [email protected]

by Ellen Osuna