Target: Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin
Goal: Support legal action against oil company responsible for releasing toxic chemicals that endangered thousands
In 2012, a large fire erupted at a Chevron oil refinery near the California city of Richmond. The blaze burned for over four hours, producing billowing clouds of toxic chemicals in the process. The pollution produced by the fire prompted the local health service to issue a “shelter in place” warning, telling residents to stay indoors and seal their houses against the toxic fumes. Despite these precautions, thousands of Richmond residents required hospital care for shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and other respiratory ailments. The city of Richmond is now pursuing legal action against Chevron for its negligence in the incident.
Both government and internal investigations traced the origins of the fire to a leaking pipe in the refinery. Although the deteriorating pipe was nearly 40 years old and had been recommended for replacement several times, Chevron failed to address the issue. Even after detecting a leak a few hours before the fire, Chevron chose to keep the refinery running instead of halting production to repair the pipe. This negligence led directly to the fire that endangered Richmond’s citizens, and the city government should be commended for standing up to the oil giant.
The lawsuit cites a total of 14 incidents since 1989 in which the Chevron refinery has been responsible for releasing toxic chemicals into the air over Richmond. “The purpose of this lawsuit is to prevent the 15th time of this happening again,” the attorney for the city explains. Chevron has attempted to deflect attention from its wrongdoing, accusing the Richmond government of “failed leadership.” Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who has led the push for legal action, responded simply, “It is Chevron who has failed us.” Please sign the petition below to commend the mayor for standing up for residents of her city and demanding accountability from Chevron.
Dear Mayor McLaughlin,
Unfortunately, oil companies have been responsible for numerous fires, accidents, leaks, and injuries in America. What is even more unfortunate is the fact that these actions often go unpunished; the massive wealth generated by their activities affords them disproportionate political influence. I am relieved to hear that you have not bowed to the pressure of this influence, and are pursuing legal action against Chevron for endangering the residents of Richmond.
The 2012 fire is just the latest in a series of harmful incidents resulting from improper safety measures and precautions at the Chevron refinery in Richmond. Thank you for recognizing that action needs to be taken in order to prevent similar leaks from further affecting the city in the future. Few mayors have the courage to stand up to a company with as much wealth, power, and influence as Chevron. Regardless of how the lawsuit ends, you have done your city a service by having the bravery to demand accountability.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Stephen Schiller via Flickr