Chevron’s corporate PR regarding its giant refinery in Richmond, CA, states that “protecting people and the environment is not just lip service, it’s our policy.” As much as locals who were around for the big 1999 fire might disagree with that statement, what would the residents near its giant facility in Kazhakstan think of that pledge?
Oh, right. There aren’t many left because at least 3,000 have been pushed out of their homes, “relocated” because of pollution from huge cakes of sulfur, a byproduct that Chevron removes from the local oil before shipping. As of 2001, the sulfur, in football-field-sized cakes about 23 feet thick, totaled 4.5 million tons.It hasn’t gotten smaller because the commercial market for sulfur is depressed and Chevron can’t ship it out at a profit.
The corrupt Kazhakhstan government, which has looked the other way in exchange for millions of dollars in fines, is finally demanding that Chevron either clean up the sulfur or get out. Given the size of the mess shown here, no cleanup is likely. But it is likely the government is bluffing for more payments from Chevron. The losers, either way? Those erstwhile neighbors. It’s a toxic mess that makes the Bush administration EPA look like the Sierra Club.