August 6 marks the one year anniversary of the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond. The fire, caused by a leak in a 40-year old pipe, sent a plume of smoke across nearby neighborhoods, leading thousands of residents to eventually seek medical care.
Government investigations found that Chevron did not replace the pipe despite the warnings of its own inspectors, and it could have avoided the fire if it shut the plant down sooner. The corporation, yesterday, promised greater safety efforts and agreed to pay $2 million in fines. For some perspective, Chevron makes that much money every 40 minutes.
This past Saturday, over a thousand protesters marched to the gates of Richmond’s Chevron refinery to speak out.
Some focused on the company’s track record, while others looked at the bigger picture of the oil industry’s role in climate change. One organization that hosted the event was 350.org, led by activist Bill McKibben. A total of 210 people were arrested, including 90-year-old Ellen Small who was inspired by McKibben’s speeches, which encouraged older activists to commit acts of civil disobedience. It was the first time Ellen Small had ever been arrested.
“I think the climate business is such we’ve got to treat it as if we are going to war," said Small. "We got together quickly in World War II and the whole country got behind it. And I think somehow, someway – and I suppose its going to be some disaster that will bring it on – but we’ve got to get together, all of us, big corporations, the little people, everyone’s got to get into it because we are here on the Earth together. And it’s going to take all of us working together to combat the terrible climate program we got.”
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