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Chevron owes more to Richmond AND California

19 Jul

Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, Antonia Juhasz, the director of the Chevron program at Global Exchange in San Francisco, shows how Richmond, California and the entire state of California have not benefitted from Chevron’s recent soaring profits (Richmond is the site of Chevron’s oldest oil refinery). Chevron’s profits have increased every year since 2002 “by an astounding 2,100 percent”. “By revenue,” points out Juhasz, “Chevron is the largest corporation in California, the second-largest U.S. oil corporation and the third-largest corporation in the nation.” There are only 36 countries on the planet that have GDPs larger than Chevron’s “$263 billion in 2008 revenues.” She also points out the dire environmental impacts of Chevron’s operations:

“The Chevron Richmond refinery is already the largest industrial polluter in the Bay Area. The Environmental Protection Agency reported nearly 100,000 pounds of toxic waste from the site in 2007, including more than 4,000 pounds of benzene, a known human carcinogen. The refinery is now, and has been, listed as in ‘high priority violation’ of air compliance standards, among other violations, by the EPA every year since at least 2006.”

The most interesting passage to note is here:

“In November, Richmond voters passed Measure T. At the current price of oil, it would provide the city with an additional $16 million annually from Chevron (adding 11 percent to the city’s tax revenues). Chevron sued, challenging the new tax.

Chevron has also repeatedly blocked state initiatives to impose a severance tax on oil extracted in the state. California is the only major oil producing state in the nation without such a tax. It is estimated that imposition of a severance tax could bring in over $1 billion a year to the California state budget.

Moreover, the Los Angeles Times reports Chevron’s role in lobbying to keep initiatives to increase corporate taxation more broadly off the table in the state’s budget negotiations.

So, basically, Governor Schwarzenegger is asking everyone else in the state of California to pay for California’s budget crisis by cutting funding to education, healthcare and other public programs but is NOT asking Chevron or other corporations to sacrifice for the greater good of California. If anyone would like to see the dire affairs of California’s budget crisis, just look at the California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) systems. Because the state is in an economic crisis and the CSUs and UCs rely on state funding, CSU and UC campuses are facing budget cuts, tuition hikes and cut classes. I know a good number of students (some of whom I went to high school with) from these schools and the stories they tell me about the situation at these campuses is not good. The situation is not just bad for students looking to further their education but bad for everyone else in California, as well. The San Jose Mercury News reported, on July 17, that California’s unemployment rate “remained steady at 11.6 percent from May to June, the highest in modern record-keeping,” which is “up from 7.1 percent a year ago.”

The state deficit is over $20 billion. Considering the soaring profits of Chevron, I’m sure it (and other corporations) will still do fine even with increased taxation. I don’t want to sound like I’m providing a magic bullet solution but I do believe that California would be much better off taxing corporations like Chevron than cutting public programs that everyone relies on to solve this budget crisis. In addition, stricter environmental regulations would not hurt, either, as it would contribute to a cleaner and safer community in Richmond. But, of course, only public pressure from a politicized and energized populace will make this happen.

Read the rest of Juhasz’s article here: “Chevron owes more to Richmond” by Antonia Juhasz, San Francisco Chronicle, July 17, 2009.

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