Guest Blogger

ExxonMobil Is Still Evil

Filed By Guest Blogger | February 03, 2015 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: big oil, civil rights, corporate influence, environmental justice, environmentalism, evil, ExxonMobil, human rights, save the planet

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Warren J. Blumenfeld is a professor in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

exxon-mobil-logo.pngAfter consistently refusing for the past 17 years to establish protections in the workplace for its LGBT employees, ExxonMobil Corporation finally announced that it will update its corporate policies to safeguard employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The company will now comply with President Obama's historic amendment to executive order 11246 issued in July 2014 forbidding businesses receiving federal contracts from discriminating against LGBT people. Earlier, Obama amended Executive Order 11478 to add "gender identity" to other protected categories in the federal civilian workforce. During his presidency, Clinton amended this executive order to prohibit discrimination toward U.S. government employees based on sexual orientation.

So ExxonMobil has ever-so-reluctantly, though finally, added LGBT workplace protections. However, ExxonMobil Corp. remains one of the primary environmental polluters in an industry that threatens the earth and life as we know it. What good are workplace protections in a corporation and in an entire industry that has granted no such protections to our planet?

Sierra Club, the environmental group, charges ExxonMobil with being one of the biggest polluters in the country. Even a cursory review of ExxonMobil's environmental record brings to light this corporation's criminal policies.

The company was ordered to pay approximately $2.3 million in fines following charges by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality that ExxonMobil had, through accidents and leaks, pumped approximately 4 million pounds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the environment from its Baton Rouge oil refinery and chemical plant between 2008 and 2011.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General filed criminal charges against ExxonMobil in 2013 for illegally unloading tens of thousands of gallons of toxic hydraulic fracturing waste at one of its drilling cites in 2010. Exxon's subsidiary, XTO, removed a wastewater tank plug resulting in 57,000 gallons of polluted waste water deposited into the ground.

In New York, a U.S. court of appeals ordered ExxonMobil to pay damages in the amount of $105 million for contaminating New York City's groundwater by dumping a toxic gasoline additive. Additionally, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it has ordered the company to pay $6.1 million following the Environment Protection Agency's assessment that ExxonMobil has not adequately reduced the sulfur content from emissions in its refineries in Baytown and Beaumont, Texas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Torrance, California.

exxon-valdez-bird.jpgAnd I hope we never forget infamous Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, when a tanker ran aground in Prince William Sound off the coast of Alaska and spilled literally hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil into the sea. This second-largest oil spill in U.S. history resulted in the death of millions of land and sea animals and plants. It turned what was previously a pristine corner of the earth into a nightmarish wasteland.

How very tragic it was watching helpless oil-drenched birds fighting valiantly but impossibly for their lives, and witnessing a seemingly endless sea covered with the lifeless corpses of fish and other sea creatures turned over on their sides.

Evidently, the fines and fees ExxonMobil Corp. has had to pay does not seem to matter to the company, since it hardly made a dent in the bottom line of the world's second-largest corporation.

But how many more oil spills, polluted and poisoned waterways and skies, dead lakes, clear-cut forests, mine disasters, mutilated and scorched lands, nuclear power plant accidents and meltdowns, toxic dumps and landfills, trash-littered landscapes, extinct animal and plant species, encroachments on land masses by increasingly raising oceans and seas, and unprecedented global climatic fluctuations will it take for the these corporations to place the health of the planet -- and by extension, the health of all Earth's inhabitants -- on the front burner of policy priorities over the unquenchable lust for profits by corporate executives and their shareholders?

Webster's dictionary defines "oppression" as "the unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power" on the individual/interpersonal, institutional, and larger societal levels. Human treatment of the environment certainly falls under this definition. As opposed to "oppression," I define "social justice" as the concept that local, national, and global communities must allow everyone equal access to and equitable distribution of rights, benefits, privileges, and resources -- and where everyone can live freely unencumbered by social constructions of hierarchical positions of domination and subordination.

oil-derrick-sunset.jpgThis concluding phrase is of prime importance, for when humans place themselves into "hierarchical positions of domination and subordination," environmental degradation inevitably results. This is no different in a U.S. context from other hierarchies of power and privilege: white people over people of color, men over women, rich over working-class and poor, heterosexuals over homosexuals and bisexuals, cisgender people over transgender people, able-bodied people over people with disabilities, native-born English speakers over immigrant linguistic minorities, adults of a certain age over youth and seniors, Christians over members of other religious and spiritual communities and non-believers.

And the spokes on the oppression wheel continue to trample over people and over our environment.

So while corporate and government non-discrimination policies provide a step forward, unless we enact stronger politics protecting our planet from discrimination and oppression, no humans will survive to enjoy their civil and human rights.

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