The True Cost of Chevron in Texas

Rebecca Tarbotton
Monday, May 24, 2010

 

Bryan Parras was born and raised in Houston, TX and has devoted his life to improving the health and environment of local communities. This week, he is also showing global leaders in town for Chevron's shareholder meeting some true Southern hospitality.

As an environmental justice organizer here in Houston (with an incredible group called TEJAS) much of his energy is spent dealing with the damage that Chevron causes right here in Texas. According to the recently released 'True Cost of Chevron' alternative annual report Chevron's Texas operations include on and offshore oil and natural gas production, chemical production, two former oil refineries, a pipeline company, and a natural gas storage facility.

Tell me about Chevron's operations here in Texas.

Chevron is one of many bad industries that refuse to upgrade facilities and have fought any regulation. They consistently violate Texas air quality and hazardous waste laws. It is part of the culture here in Texas and Houston. The oil industry carries a lot of political influence at both the state and federal level so it's very difficult to make changes. Chevron is allowed to 'self-report' what they emit and they're always under-reporting. It's poor communities along the Houston Ship Channel that suffer because of it.

Immediately after Chevron's shareholder meeting on Wednesday, your organization is hosting a Toxic Tour. What does that involve?

We'll start in East Houston and show folks the massive petrochemical industrial complex. The 15-mile Houston Ship Channel may be great for the companies because they can get products in and out fast, but it comes at great cost to the surrounding communities. It is literally 15 miles straight off chemical plants and refineries. You’ll smell the air. You'll probably get a headache and feel queasy. You'll see that people are basically living at plants. You look out people's backyards and see huge flares. People say that on nights that they flare, they don't need to turn on the lights. At least once a month (and usually more often) there is an accident at one of these facilities like a fire or 'upset.' I think our friends who are visiting from around the globe will be amazed to see that this happens in the US. Companies like Chevron just do whatever they want there.

What do you think the true costs of Chevron are?

Living with compromised health. Really high rates of asthma and cancer. And it goes unnoticed. It's just a part of life here.

When you are at Chevron's shareholder meeting Wednesday what will you say to the company?

I will ask them to please listen to the stories from all over the world. People have traveled for days and I hope they are respectful enough to really listen and begin cleaning up their operations. If Chevron doesn't even follow standards here in the US, I'm frightened by what they do abroad. We are not being shot at, we are not being starved, but we are being impacted. I am sick. I grew up in East Houston and I've been breathing this toxic air my whole life. Chevron should be good corporate citizens and should have some responsibility.

Bryan Parras is one of nearly 40 people from around the globe who are in Houston for Chevron's annual shareholder meeting. This is the second in a series of 'City Brights' interviews I will conduct with these global community leaders. Tune in tomorrow for more of their stories.


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