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The Hypocrisy of Occidental Petroleum

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday May 25th, 2011 | 0 Comments

Occidental Petroleum Corporation released its 2010 CSR report, “Growth with Responsibility.” The CSR report states, “We are committed to safeguarding the environment, protecting the safety and health of employees and neighboring communities and upholding high standards of social responsibility in all of the company’s worldwide operations.” That sounds so good.

There is a problem with the claims of the CSR report: Occidental supported California’s Proposition 23 which would have overturned the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) . AB 32 requires greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. Occidental supported Proposition 23 to the tune of $300,000.

Occidental shareholders voted on May 6, 2011 on a proposal that would have required the company’s political spending by its board to be reviewed. Unfortunately the proposal did not pass.

Wendy Wendlandt, President of Green Century Capital Management, the lead filer of the shareholder proposal, said that disclosing a “company’s practices and procedures related to political spending is critical for allowing shareholders and directors to assess the risk it may pose to the company and shareholder value.” Disclosure is also important for a company to ensure that its “spending is in line with its own policies, positions and practices,” said Wendlandt.

Wendlandt added, “Because Occidental has made what we consider poor choices, such as spending $300,000 of investor monies to support a backward looking and controversial environmental initiative in California (Prop 23), we believe it’s appropriate for the board to review and report on the company’s spending decisions to ensure the company is protecting shareholder value from risky political spending. We believe such transparency is more important than ever.”

Two members of Occidental’s board of directors, Peggy Foran, Chief Governance Officer with Prudential Financial, and Howard I. Atkins, Former Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer with Wells Fargo, come from companies that already have “political disclosure policies and board oversight,” Wendlandt said. “We hope that Ms. Foran and Mr. Atkins would help Occidental become a leader in political disclosure.”

Carijano vs. Occidental Petroleum Corp. lawsuit

Members of the Achuar tribe, indigenous to the Peruvian Amazon, filed a lawsuit in 2007 against Occidental. The plaintiffs allege that Occidental’s operations in Peru’s Amazon region contaminated the land and the Corrientes and Macusari rivers, which caused health problems for the Achuar. Tests showed that Achuar children and adults have lead and cadmium levels in the blood that could be dangerous, and plaintiffs have complained that there are a host of health problems such as kidney trouble. Plaintiffs also reported that pollution in rivers caused edible fish levels to decrease.

Occidental’s Peruvian operations started in 1970s when the company, a large U.S. oil and gas exploration company, began development in an area near Ecuador’s border called Block 1-AB. Occidental’s subsidiary, OxyPeru developed Block 1-AB which provided 26 percent of Peru’s oil production from 1972 to 2000, and in 2000 Occidental sold its stake in Block 1-AB to Pluspetrol, an Argentine oil company.


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