The media Accountable.us released in july 2022 a new report, “Dirty Discrimination: Big Oil’s History of Environmental Racism,”detailing how communities of color both domestically and internationally have disproportionately been forced to pay the price for the oil and gas industry’s environmental degradation. The release of this prescient analysis follows recent efforts by Senators Alex Padilla (CA) and Richard Durbin (IL) to fund the Department of Justice’s newly established Office of Environmental Justice. The analysis opens with a chilling example of industry callousness:
In 2017, the NAACP released a study finding that Black Americans face higher levels of oil-sourced pollution than white Americans – findings even later confirmed by the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Though it initially declined to comment, Big Oil’s premier special interest lobby, the American Petroleum Institute (API), eventually called the NAACP study an “attack” on the oil industry and instead blamed what it considered to be the real problem facing Black Americans: “genetics.” [Dirty Discrimination, 2022]
The report exposes the industry’s decades-long practice of using communities of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people as sites for oil and gas production, exposing them to deadly pollution linked to increased rates of cancer, heart disease, and premature death. Emissions, leaks, and oil spills can threaten communities’ air quality, water supply, food, job prospects, and ecosystem. Additionally, the report reveals that Chevron, Phillips 66, and ConocoPhillips’ operate refineries in two majority-minority cities have coincided with disproportionate cancer, asthma, and death rates.
Despite Big Oil’s dubious claims of support for diversity and anti-racism, the industry continues to systematically and disproportionally pollute communities of color. For decades, oil and gas companies have forced people of color to live with potentially deadly pollution, putting their health at risk to maximize profit margins. The history of harm inflicted on these communities must be reckoned with when evaluating similarly situated industry projects. Washington must take environmental racism seriously or it will continue unabated.”
Internationally, big oil giants like Chevron, Shell, and TC Energy have devastated indigenous homelands, destroyed ecosystems and worsened public health conditions, and have often employed violent means to crush popular opposition to the construction of fossil fuel infrastructure and gas activity.
Current Big Oil Projects Outlined in the Report:
- Plains All American pursued a pipeline through a Black neighborhood in Memphis, Tennessee, that a project associate called the “point of least resistance.”
- Enbridge moved forward with a pipeline that interfered with Native American treaty rights and was described by advisors as a “war on Black and brown people.”
- Phillips 66 and Enbridge are affiliated with the Dakota Access Pipeline that would risk the Standing Rock Sioux’s water supply and sacred burial sites after being rerouted from a 90 percent white town.
- Despite a judge throwing out the project’s approval, ConocoPhillips is moving forward with its Willow project in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, threatening the Native village of Nuiqsut, which already endured oil and gas pollution in schools and homes.