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The Appeals Court Judge at the Chevron Tarsands expansion hearing had a burning question for the oil giant’s ideologue conservative attorney. Did the $62 million ‘community benefits’ package that Chevron offered the City of Richmond influence its approval and fast tracking of the $800 million expansion of the aging refinery?
Justice Patricia Sepulveda questioned Chevron’s attorney Van Buskirk about whether the Benefits Agreement gave the city “bias to approve the project.” Van Buskirk said, “It wasn’t a quid pro quo, if that’s what you’re suggesting.” But his lack of transparency caused the Justice to hammer away at the point until he ultimately conceded that it was fair suggest to that the gift had played a role in the approval.
Why is the potential for bias so important in what has become a technical scientific wrangling over exactly what kind of crude oil Chevron plans to refine at the facility? Because Chevron’s attorneys, when questioned on the topic, told the judges to rely on the decisions made by the City of Richmond — which the attorney conceded may have been influenced by the money.
Bayer, the company that makes plain old Aspirin, is storing 200,000 pounds ofof methyl isocyanate or MIC in a certain country – that’s the same deadly chemical that killed thousands of innocent people in Bhopal India(link) and left tens of thousands with severe illness. Not a chemical to handle lightly.
So in the last few years when this Bayer facility has had serious chemical spills that killed workers and gassed neighbors in violation of the laws and regulations of this as yet unnamed country(links to news reports), what do you think happened?
Nothing – other than Bayer saying they would submit to “voluntary monitoring.” No crackdown by regulators. No fines issued. No guarantee that the original problems that caused the spill were fixed.
Where on God’s Green Earth is this going on you say? Must be some corrupt province in Nigeria or India or developing country that doesn’t know better, right?
It’s in the quaint town of Institute, West Virginia – in the good old USA – where in August 2008 an explosion and fire killed two plants workers and caused thousands of residents to flee.
Picture this: A mom is taking her infant daughter for a walk in the stroller in her neighborhood when a chemical release fills the air with noxious foul smells that sicken them both. Nearby other families have their homes invaded by the same toxic stench, – What can they do? Luckily for them, they can call environmental inspectors, part of an elite team of trained enviro-cops are available 24/7/365 via an 800 number to swoop in and catch the toxic criminal who has dumped in their neighborhood.
The Air Quality Inspectors jump in their official vehicles and race to the scene of the suspected environmental offence to protect the innocent folks just trying to take the baby for a stroll and live peacefully in their homes. Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it?
Well, it is because in a bizarre twist of fate, the toxic cops arrive armed with only 1 piece of ‘built-in’ equipment with which they will carry out their investigation to gather hard evidence so that the agencies legal team can prosecute the violator: their noses.
Did they rush off so quickly, they forgot to pack their CSI equipment in the trunk?
Nope! It’s the official policy of the government agency to have them just packin their noses! That’s it? In this day of high tech bomb and chemical sniffers, special puffers that blow air up our pants at the airport and even highly trained dogs that can ID cocaine or fruit crossing our borders, these Air Police just bring their noses to gather legal evidence to prosecute lawbreakers?
It’s a joke, right? Yes it is, but it is also reality. And no one that gets dumped on by chemical polluters is laughing. The laugh track is completely filled already by the belly busting guffaws of refineries, chemical plants, steel mills and their high priced lawyers and consultants.
Surely there is reasonable explanation for this situation, you say. It must be happening in oil country or some cancer alley where polluters reign and green policies have long been plowed under by industry lobbyists and their political hacks? Nope, wrong again!
It’s happening in the greenest state in the nation and the self proclaimed capitol of enviro-crazies: the San Francisco Bay Area, including right in Berkeley California, home to the most lefty liberal wild eyed green policies in the Nation!
Huh? That’s right, why even the almost pinko commie Mayor sits on the Board of the Agency of which we speak. What agency funded by my tax dollars is that you ask? The Bay Area Air Quality Management District or BAAQMD headquartered right in another enviro loony town known as San Francisco!!!
Caught in the Devil’s Bargain, Chevron stabs workers in the back.
Have you seen the latest story coming out about Chevron and their troubles in Richmond, CA? Seems since they didn’t get their way in ramming through a giant expansion of their refinery, the Oil Giant is threatening to close up shop, dismantle the 3,000 acre facility and sell the parts at the world’s largest garage sale in China. Huh? Get rid of your largest refinery in the most profitable market in the Pacific? What’s really going on?
A strange thing happened when Chevron made their latest move to expand their huge refinery operations in Richmond California, a town mostly known for crime, drugs, failing schools and pollution. When Chevron’s mega-million dollar expansion won approval from the City and the local Air agency, the project was immediately appealed in Court based on some serious and upfront legal issues. That’s not the strange part. That’s what refineries expect.
The strange part is that, knowing full well that the Court would mandate that work on the project halted until the approval documents were fixed, Chevron played an unbelievably cruel trick on the families of more than a thousand construction workers. Chevron hired these workers knowing that if the court rejected the questionable environmental estimates (which almost anyone could predict), the workers would have to be laid off, possibly for more than a year.
Why would a local employer and alleged good corporate citizen hire a bunch of people when they knew they would let them go soon afterwards? Simple. Chevron wanted to silence their critics by setting up the false choice of jobs versus the environment and in fact bury them for good. In recent years the local City Council, the Mayor and local watchdog groups have grown weary of Chevron’s threats and bullying tactics to skirt taxes and regulations and claim of being a good neighbor.