The Profits Over People Pattern

By Rainforest Action Network
Oil pollution in the rainforest
Cofán community member Donald investigates one of the many unlined, open-air oil waste pits Chevron left in his rainforest home in Ecuador.

In what has become something of a pattern, the Obama administration recently took a bold new step to protect our planet at the same time that it was taking a giant step backwards.

Hot on the heels of the announcement about the EPA’s plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries and fossil-fueled power plants, we get word that the administration is allowing 13 oil companies to resume offshore drilling operations without any further environmental review.

Speaking of patterns: Remember how Chevron recently had three oil spills in the space of one week? Well, several members just walked out of the community advisory committee set up to deal with the fallout from one of those spills, the one that occurred in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. One of the community members who resigned from the committee says that the decision to walk out was prompted by Chevron’s deliberate attempts to hide the extent of the ongoing spill. “What [Chevron] told us and what are in the pictures are two different things. I totally lost my trust,” she says.

Let’s see, Chevron polluting a community, pretending to work to remediate the pollution and impacts on the local community but actually trying to downplay the extent of the problem and having no real desire to clean anything up because that might adversely impact the company’s bottom line… Where have we seen that before?

Oh right! That’s pretty much the same story as down in Ecuador. It almost seems like everywhere Chevron goes, there is pollution caused by its operations that the company refuses to take responsibility for. Just ask the people of Salt Lake City, UT or Richmond, CA or Pascagoula, MS.

It bears mentioning, therefore, that Chevron is among the 13 oil companies that have just been given the green light to resume drilling without performing a thorough assessment of the environmental impacts of a spill — even though the Obama administration vowed that it would not allow drilling to resume until it was guaranteed to be safer and less likely to catastrophically pollute our planet, and Obama’s own National Commission just released a report finding that without fundamentally reworking the regulatory framework, a catastrophe like the BP oil spill could happen again.

Putting aside the obvious fact that the oil business can never guarantee it won’t poison our planet because the oil business is just inherently dirty through and through, it seems like the least the administration could have done would have been to demand a thorough environmental review before the likes of Chevron gets the green light to resume its reckless operations. It’s not a matter of if there’s another oil spill, but when — and why shouldn’t we expect the responsible party to have a legitimate plan in place for dealing with the next spill?

But hey, it’s another pattern: American politicians caving to powerful corporate interests who put profits over the planet.