"Chevron's Dirty Hand" Reaches Guelph

Monday, November 17, 2014

  • "Chevron - Pay what you owe." Cancillería Ecuador from Ecuador - Caso Chevron - Texaco, conv

    "Chevron - Pay what you owe." Cancillería Ecuador from Ecuador - Caso Chevron - Texaco, conv

Written by Pegleess Barrios

University of Guelph students and members of the Guelph community united last week to learn about the reality of Chevron. The Guelph YCL and OPIRG Guelph hosted a talk, called “Chevron’s Dirty Hand”. The talk outlined Chevron’s history of oppression and contamination, with the goal of promote solidarity with the groups fighting against Chevron in Canada. The worldwide case with Chevron, as the documentary “Crude” aptly put it, is a story of “big oil and little people.”

Chevron is a company that specializes in crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids exploration, development and production. Look Chevron up online and you will find an incredibly community-supportive organization, with little blurbs about their social responsibility, ethical conduct, and neo-liberal values, as well as programs supporting HIV awareness, cancer research etc. As the third largest corporation in the US, Chevron generates $26.2 billion in revenue annually – larger than the GDP of 138 nations.

Originally called Texaco, the U.S. oil giant’s reign of terror was first documented in 1964, when they moved into Ecuador in search of oil. According to a clip shown from "Crude", the oil company deliberately contaminated Ecuador’s amazon rainforest, dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater, among other contaminants. The magnitude of this pollution is so extreme that levels of water pollution were over 30 times higher than the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska – it is sometimes referred to as the “Amazon Chernobyl”.

Villagers in "Crude" showed how the waste contaminated drinking water for nearby inhabitants, leading to birth defects, cancer, and other pollution-associated illnesses among the people living in the area, as well as having negative repercussions for delicate flora and fauna.

In one video displayed at the talk, Ecuadorian villagers pulled water out of a well and passed it to a researcher, who immediately jumped back, exclaiming: “This is water? It smells like oil, gasoline!” Villagers protested Texaco’s occupation of the land. “This isn’t contamination – this is industrial exploitation, sponsored by the law!” One protestor shouted. However, when asked about the source of the contaminants, Texaco’s lawyers denied all accounts of water contamination, and responded, “We’ve had all the rivers tested and it’s not a case of oil, it’s a case of hygiene."

Ecuador was  not the only country to be invaded by Chevron.

Another affected country was Romania. After their revolution, there was a massive privatization of government industries and assets. Although the communist government had turned down Chevron’s requests to conduct shale gas exploration, the new government quickly accepted it and privatized that industry for a large profit. An estimated 2800 pits were drilled in northern Romania, to the chagrin of villagers.

“When you are someone who lives off the land, this is devastating.” The presenter told the audience, explaining that the contamination and pollution are harmful for nearby farmland, people and other animals. The villagers near the Romanian sites created a resistance camp to physically stop Chevron machinery, but national riot police beat back the protestors. The Romanian current political leaders reported that there is zero shale gas in Romania and exploration has ceased, but the presenter spoke on the contrary.  “I am from Romania, immigrated to Canada,” she told the audience. “And what you need to know is that what happened in Romania is still going on, Chevron is still conducting shale gas exploration.”

What does this have to do with Canada? Chevron has recently established itself here as Chevron Canada, with the goal of creating pipelines to the pacific coast, in order to establish themselves in a yet-unclaimed port area. However,one reason that this territory had not been claimed yet was because it goes right through the unceded lands of the Unis’ot’en people, an aboriginal group near the West coast. The Unist’ot’en people live closely with the land, and the Chevron pipelines and probably contamination threaten their way of life, traditions and culture, as well as, the potential to leave the community with a local source of drinking water.

Although Canada was established through colonialism, the land was inhabited by this group before any other and this project would put their livelihood in peril. Furthermore, the pipelines will have future environmental repercussions.  

However, the Harper Government continues to push the pipelines, even resorting to violence to move them out of the way of their corporate agenda. The Unist’ot’en are losing ground both physically and metaphorically and are struggling to have their voice heard over the large corporation and its government and legal backing.

The Unist’ot’en people are calling on Canadians to join them in solidarity on November 27 and help to put pressure on the Canadian government to stop the pipelines and protect their land.

For more information contact:

twitter: @chevronsdirty


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