Statement to the Chevron Board of Directors and Shareholders

Statement to the Chevron Board of Directors and Shareholders By Crude Accountability
May 25, 2011
Chevron Annual Shareholder Meeting, San Ramon, CA

My name is Leanne Grossman. I am a board member of the organization Crude Accountability. I am here today representing our partners, the villagers of Berezovka, Kazakhstan, whose health, environment and livelihood are suffering severely due to emissions from the nearby Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate Field from which Chevron is extracting and refining oil.

For nine long years, the villagers have been seeking relocation and compensation from Chevron. I’d like to remind the board and shareholders that at last year’s annual meeting Mr. Watson stated that Chevron is “look[ing] forward to a favorable resolution to the Berezovka situation.”

An entire year has passed. No favorable resolution has been executed. The villagers still live within the field’s so-called Sanitary Protection Zone, which in fact, is a danger zone. Chevron is actively in violation of national law. In 2010, a Kazakhstani court confirmed that people must be relocated from this zone to an area that does not jeopardize their health. Despite the fact that Chevron is the largest private oil producer in Kazakhstan, it has done nothing to relocate the villagers to a safe environment.

The villagers just met to put in writing once again their appeal to you. I urge you now to listen as if you are hearing the cries of your own daughter, who awakens you at night because her asthma is so bad she can hardly breathe or your son who sleeps little because his nose won’t stop bleeding. The sulfur emissions from the field turned your wife’s hopeful pregnancy into a tragic stillbirth.

You can’t imagine living there, can you? So why should the villagers? Are you better than they are? No. Do you have more human rights than they do? Of course not. That goes against the American way. The villagers are trying to tell you in their letter that they are human too, “we suffer constantly from the impact of the emissions from Karachaganak. According to the results of numerous studies…almost 50 percent of the population suffers from chronic health problems.”

Independent scientific monitoring programs have established an alarming record of toxins in the field’s vicinity for several years in a row. In 2010 alone, Karachaganak Petroleum Operating—in which Chevron is a significant partner—was fined $13.5 million for excessive emissions.

Twenty-five percent of Chevron’s net proved reserves are located in Kazakhstan. Therefore, taking action to uphold human rights in Berezovka would send a powerful message not only to the villagers, but to the whole of Kazakhstan, your consumers and the global community. According to your own advertising last week, “Oil companies should put their profits to good use. We agree,” Patricia Yarrington, Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, Chevron, declared in The Oakland Tribune, (May 18, 2011, p. A11.) Initiating the relocation and compensation of the 1300 men, women and children of Berezovka is imperative if Chevron is going to act on its promises rather than make cynical mockery of its public relations campaign.

Finally, the villagers write, “We appeal to you, shareholders . . . to take an active role in making a decision about the resettlement of the residents of Berezovka to a safe location. We await your prompt reply. With hope, The residents of Berezovka.” Note the letter bears 124 signatures signed on May 13, 2011. I present it to you now.

I urge you, Chevron shareholders, board of directors and Mr. Watson, to act immediately to ensure that the villagers are relocated and compensated before more lives are ruined in the name of exponential profits. I know you agree that Chevron has the means. It’s past time to muster the will to “put your profits to good use,” by caring about the human inhabitants where your operations are sited.