blog Chevron

From California to Kazakhstan, Communities Rise Up Against Chevron

Mariel Kieval, Communications Coordinator

May 21st, 2023 marked the beginning of the 10th Annual Global Anti-Chevron Week recognized by communities across the world that have been directly harmed by Chevron Corporation’s exploitation of people and the environment. For many communities, such as those in Kazakhstan, the fight against Chevron has been going on for decades. 

Chevron has an 18% share in the Karachaganak Petroleum Operating (KPO), a consortium that operates the Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate Field. Karachaganak is one of the world’s largest gas condensate fields–-it claims to have employed thousands of local people in Kazakhstan and contributed hundreds of billions of dollars to Kazakhstan’s economy over the years. 

While fossil fuel companies continue exploiting and profiting off of the estimated 2.4 billion barrels of condensate and 16 trillion cubic feet of gas in Karachaganak’s reserves, communities residing nearby are paying the costs with their lives

Since 2003, Crude Accountability has campaigned alongside communities in Kazakhstan to hold accountable KPO and Kazakhstani government officials, who put profits over people. Zhasil Dala (Green Steppe), a local environmental organization, formed to demand compensation for their community and successfully campaigned for relocation of the village of Berezovka to a safe and environmentally clean area. 

A 2009 audit of KPO revealed unpaid taxes amounting to $54 million. Over the next decade, disputes over profits and taxes led to KPO paying $1.1 billion to the Kazakhstani government in 2018.

In April 2023, the government announced it would be suing KPO, as well as the North Caspian Operating Company in charge of the Kashagan oil field, in order to re-allocate its income amounting to $16.5 billion. Though the lawsuit is a reflection of the government’s distrust of the consortium, not an active step toward environmental protection, the concerns about Chevron and its partners demonstrate its consistent actions, which take advantage of the people and places near its operations. 

This lawsuit is not the first against Chevron in Kazakhstan. Chevron is the majority shareholder at the giant Tengiz Field, also in western Kazakhstan, which is the largest source of pollution in Atyrau Oblast, and a significant emitter of airborne toxins. In 2010, the government of Kazakhstan filed a criminal lawsuit against Tengizchevroil (of which Chevron owns a 50% share), accusing the company of violating its license agreement. 

Communities near Tengiz were forcibly relocated away from Tengiz because of emissions concerns. Tengiz has also been the site of numerous labor disputes, including in January 2022 when demonstrations broke out all over the country, resulting in a massive and violent crackdown by the Kazakhstani government. 

In good company

The people of Kazakhstan aren’t the only ones fighting back against Chevron. The company’s  record of emissions and other environmental violations are all too familiar to those from Richmond, Ecuador, Australia and beyond.

“Chevron, in my opinion and many of our community members opinions, has really soiled not just our environment or our climate, but our health, our politics, and our economy in a way that is almost unimaginable,” says Marisol Cántu, a teacher and activist living in Richmond, California, where Chevron operates the Richmond Refinery.

Cántu, as part of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, is documenting the impacts of Chevron’s operations on her community, from health problems to funding pro-fossil fuel political candidates.

In our recent interview, Cántu reflects on what a fossil-free Richmond would look like:

I’m imagining a life without fear that another explosion will happen that will not just send 15,000 people to the hospital, but would actually kill workers and our community members. I imagine being free to walk in parks that don’t say, “Closed Due to Oil Spill.” I imagine our big bay being clean, without having toxins legally dumped into it. I imagine skies that have clouds, not clouds of fumes from the refinery that our community sometimes doesn’t know if it’s a real cloud or something from the refinery hovering over us. I imagine a world without Chevron.

In Chevron, we don’t trust

Chevron’s activities in the United States are not unnoticed by watchdog organizations and state governments. 

Following a 2020 lawsuit brought against Chevron and other oil companies to hold them accountable for committing fraud and contributing to climate change-related storm events, the city of Hoboken, New Jersey is bringing additional charges against Chevron. On May 16th, 2023, Hoboken filed a claim accusing Chevron and fossil giants with “a half-century illegal scheme to defraud the public about the known dangers of climate change.” This violates the city’s law against racketeering and the second case of its type against Big Oil, following a similar suit brought by municipalities in Puerto Rico in 2022.

A recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) named Chevron and Exxon Mobil, among other fossil fuel producers, responsible for at least 35% of the total area of forests lost to forest fires around the world. The report can likely provide the basis for further legal action against Chevron and other fossil fuel companies to hold them accountable for the acceleration of climate disruption.

Just one week after the Hoboken lawsuit was filed and the UCS report was published, Chevron announced it would buy PDC Energy Inc. for $6.3 billion, giving it access to an additional 300,000 acres of land in Colorado and Texas in which to expand its production of unsustainable energy and damage to environments and livelihoods. It is clear that stronger collective action is needed in order to stop Chevron in its tracks.

In solidarity, there is justice

We cannot let Chevron continue to engage in business as usual at the expense of our present and future. 

Today and every day, Crude Accountability stands with communities around the world rising up against Chevron. We call on Chevron to immediately cease committing human rights abuses and destroying the ways of life of people and the non-human world. Chevron’s financiers and partners in extraction must stop funding this socio-ecological damage. 

By standing together and refusing to stay silent, we can reveal the true cost of Chevron.

Additional resources
Republic of Chevron: Twenty Years in Kazakhstan
Kashagan Oil Bubble: Project Failures and Consequences
The True Cost of Chevron An Alternative Annual Report May 2011
The True Cost of Chevron An Alternative Annual Report May 2010
The True Cost of Chevron An Alternative Annual Report May 2009