|PHOTO BY ELIZABETH STEWART
Mondayâ€™s massive fires at the Chevron Refinery in Richmond affected many in our community. Thick, black smoke spewed over much of the Bay Area, forcing thousands of East Bay residents to stay in their homes with the windows and doors closed. What isnâ€™t closed, surprisingly, is Chevronâ€™s proverbial closet, since the corporation rates highly on HRCâ€™s Corporate Equality Index.
The Index is released annually, and Chevron received a perfect 100 percent rating during the last review. Criteria for the rating system includes whether or not a company has a non-discrimination policy and diversity training concerning sexual orientation issues. The system also takes into account insurance and employee health benefits, benefits to partners, and whether or not the company has an LGBT employee resource group or diversity council. It further acknowledges how the business engages in â€śappropriate and respectful advertising and marketing,â€ť sponsorship of LGBT community events or organizations, and â€śresponsible citizenship,â€ť which is tarnished if a â€ślarge-scale official or public anti-LGBT blemishâ€ť winds up on the companyâ€™s recent records.
To receive the 100 percent rating, Chevron is clearly keeping its nose clean on all of the above.
Less stellar, as you might imagine, is the companyâ€™s environmental performance. Even without Mondayâ€™s disaster, Newsweekâ€™s Green Rankings of U.S. companies put Chevron toward the back of the pack. With a green score of less than 50 (out of 100), the corporation continues to fail miserably.
Chevron scored equally poorly on its environmental impact and environmental management ratings, although disclosure of problems was rated a 76.
A University of Michigan study, â€śWest County Toxics Coalition and the Chevron Refinery,â€ť reports that Chevron stores over 11 million pounds of toxic, explosive and corrosive materials at the refinery very close to large population centers. Between 1989 and 1995 alone, Chevron had 304 accidents, which included major fires, spills, leaks, explosions, toxic gas releases, flaring and air contamination. Many of the chemicals in gasoline, such as benzene, have been linked to increased risk of cancer.
Consider that, even without such direct chemical considerations, several studies show that LGBT men and women are at higher risk for certain cancers. A study last year published in the journal Cancer, for example, found that gay men â€śreport a higher cancer rate than straight men.â€ť The BBC, which reported on the study, mentioned that â€śgay men were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with cancer as straight men and, on average, it happened a decade earlier.â€ť Among lesbians, instances of breast cancer are also high. Exactly why remains a mystery, but higher stress levels, which play a role in immunity and warding off disease, could be a factor.
Another unknown is how many members of our community will have their health adversely affected by this weekâ€™s Chevron disaster and the refineryâ€™s operations in general. We are all, gay and straight, guinea pigs in what could be characterized as a colossal health experiment with an unknown outcome.
Chevron may have scored an â€śAâ€ť in corporate equality, but it is continuously failing those of us who support clean, renewable energy.