Ahead of Chevron's annual shareholder meeting in San Ramon today, Richmond's mayor and a coalition of environmental and human rights activists denounced the energy company's local political contributions.
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, at a news briefing in Oakland Tuesday morning with groups including rainforest advocacy group Amazon Watch and consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, said she stands in solidarity with activists.
The coalition is calling for the firing of Chevron CEO John Watson and ending political spending funneled toward "pro-Chevron" candidates.
The mayor acknowledged the longstanding relationship the city has with the oil giant and the impact of the disastrous Aug. 6, 2012, refinery fire had on the city and its residents.
"This corporation needs to do better," she said.
She highlighted the 15,000 residents sent to hospitals with respiratory problems after toxic smoke billowed into the air from the refinery, and the damage to the city's image.
The fire "impacted the Richmond community and impacted the region as a whole," McLaughlin said.
She said she is working with the City Council to seek reimbursement from Chevron for cleanup costs and other damages.
Additionally, she said Chevron has "manipulated our local elections," and cited $1.2 million spent in Richmond and other local elections last year.
"They are impacting democracy," she said.
Chevron officials responded that they contribute to the community by "providing jobs, reliable energy and social investments."
"Chevron has been an active part of the community for over 100 years and is the largest employer, the largest taxpayer and has invested more than $200 million in the community over the last three years through taxes, contributions and purchases from local businesses," Chevron said in a statement.
Furthermore, the company said it wants to help restore Richmond and encouraged the city to invest in the refinery to "keep it safe, reliable and competitive."
McLaughlin called Chevron a "big polluter" that needs to readdress its approach to the health and safety of residents who live near the refinery at its annual meeting.
The shareholder meeting will be held today at Chevron headquarters at 6001 Bollinger Canyon Road in San Ramon starting at 8 a.m.
Protesters are expected at the meeting. Chevron officials said the demonstrators have a right to voice their opinions about the company's practices.
"Chevron seeks to engage in positive, constructive dialogue with its stakeholders. Chevron is proud of the significant contributions we make to communities where we operate by providing jobs, reliable energy and strategic social investments," company officials said Tuesday.
Representatives from the Amazon Watch-led coalition plan to deliver thousands of pink slips to CEO Watson and submit a petition with more than 20,000 signatures asking Chevron to refrain from election spending.