A corroded pipe at a Chevron refinery caused a massive explosion and fire in Richmond, California in August 2012. Approximately 15,000 of Richmond’s residents had to go to the hospital for treatment as a result of the fire that raged on for over five hours, EcoWatch reported.
In the two years since the fire, Richmond’s city government has been trying to get Chevron to adhere to new safety regulations. On the eve of the first anniversary of the explosion, Richmond sued the giant corporation, accusing Chevron of ignoring safety concerns going as far back as 1999.
“This is not about money, although there are certainly costs attached to the impact of this fire,” then Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said at a news conference. “This is about a change in Chevron’s corporate culture, to place safety of the community as a top priority.”
The city’s suit also pointed out that while Chevron was ignoring safety problems at the refinery, it was paying its top three executives a combined $52.8 million. It clearly could have afforded to fix all the problems at the Richmond plant – and then some.
Chevron, of course, said the lawsuit was simply a tactic to draw attention away from a “dysfunctional” city council and called it “a waste of the city’s resources and yet another example of its failed leadership.”
Since the city of Richmond is actually standing up to the oil conglomerate, Chevron has decided to take action. Political action.
“So far this year, Chevron has poured an astounding $2.9 million into three campaign committees in Richmond,” the LA Times reported. “Of that, at least $1.4 million has gone to a committee supporting the pro-Chevron candidates and $500,000 to a committee opposing the candidate critical of Chevron, including the current mayor, Gayle McLaughlin.” This means that Chevron is ready to spend at least $33 for “the vote of every resident of the city 18 or older.”
Any rational person would think that Chevron’s involvement in this election, aside from being a huge conflict of interest, would be illegal. But thanks to the Supreme Court’s decisions in the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases, Chevron can essentially pour as much money as it wants to into any election it wants to – federal, state, or local.
Watch MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow discuss Chevron’s involvement in the Richmond election.