Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

Chevron Compensates Victims of PA Gas Explosion: With Pizza

After a fatal gas well explosion in Pennsylvania earlier this month, Chevron adds insult to injury by giving local families coupons for pizza and soda.

By Katie Rucke, MintPress
20 February 2014

Chevron is offering coupons for a free pizza and 2-liter soft drink to 100 families as it hopes to repair its relationship with residents of a Pennsylvania town where a gas well exploded and killed a worker earlier this month.

The pizza coupons are the company's "token of appreciation" for residents after an explosion on Feb. 11 in the rural community of Bobtown, Penn., sparked a fire that burned for about five days, killed one employee and injured another.

Newsweek reported that the flames were so powerful that a propane truck near the Marcellus Shale natural gas well exploded, and safety concerns forced the evacuations of first responders.

Earlier this week, Chevron reported that the situation at the well "remains serious and teams are working around the clock to safely approach and shut the well," since the fire has burned out — at least for now. Gas and heat are still being emitted from the well.

Chevron may not know yet what caused the explosion, but the company purchased 100 gift certificates from Bobtown Pizza for a free "Special Combo" for the town's residents. The $12 gift certificates will cover the cost of one large pizza and one 2-liter soft drink.

The free pizza coupons were hand-delivered to residents, along with the following note: "Dear Neighbor, We are sorry to have missed you. We wanted to provide you with a status update on the February 11 incident that occurred on Chevron's Appalachia's Lanoce 7 H well pads in Dunkard Township and see if you had any questions or concerns that we could address.

"Chevron recognizes the effect this has had on the community. We value being a responsible member of this community and will continue to strive to achieve incident-free operations. We are committed to taking action to safeguard our neighbors, our employees, our contractors and the environment."

The gift certificates expire May 1.

Community backlash

Talking to CNN, one coupon recipient who wished to remain anonymous due to Chevron's strong presence in the area said, "It felt like a huge slap in the face," to get a free pizza.

"I do not feel that they’ve addressed anything," he said. "I haven’t even called their hotline yet because I’m just too upset. A pizza coupon? I mean come on!"

Many residents also vented their anger on social media outlets like Twitter.

"Worst apology ever: Sorry our fracking well exploded. Here’s a free pizza," one Twitter user wrote.

"Nice community relations: if you are frightened by fire and explosion, relax, have a pizza!" another tweeted.

Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth, a grassroots organization fighting to protect air and water resources in the Marcellus Shale region, started a petition asking Chevron CEO John Watson to "apologize for giving neighbors of a gas well … coupons for a free pizza and two-liter bottle of soda."

"A tragedy occurred," the petition says. "A coupon for pizza and soda to make up for that is an insult."

Talking to MintPress, Amazon Watch's Paul Paz y Miño said he has never seen anything like Chevron's coupon condolence. He wrote in a blog post that it offers the public "one of those rare glimpses into a corporation's ethos, or lack thereof."

"Somewhere inside Chevron the decision was made that a $12 large pizza and a two-liter soda was proper compensation, or at least sufficient to pacify people for the ‘inconvenience' of having a huge explosion and toxic fire in their neighborhood," he wrote.

"Chevron’s attitude in the U.S. in 2014 has barely evolved from their attitude in 1964 in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. Back then Chevron told villagers that oil was good for them, to rub it on their joints for arthritis! They sprayed it on the roads to keep down the dust and people walked on it for years, shoeless. All the while they were dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into pits that drained directly into waterways used for drinking and bathing," he wrote.

"Could they get away with that in Pennsylvania today? If it turns out that communities can no longer drink their tap water due to Chevron’s fracking, will the company send them coupons for a case of Diet Mountain Dew?"

Even if Watson and Chevron fail to issue an apology, Feridun and other locals and upset Americans are planning to contact Watson and the Chevron communications team on Monday, Feb. 24, to either order a pizza or share their feelings about the oil company's "insulting response."

In his post, Paz y Miño noted that it's important residents don't take their anger out on Bobtown Pizza, because the pizza shop was not "aware that Chevron is the largest corporate criminal on the run and on the hook for $9.5 billion in Ecuador."

"I spoke to the pizza place (on Wednesday). My understanding is that a very nice woman from Chevron called and wanted to buy 100 of these coupons," Paz y Miño told new, adding that he has to believe no one else at Chevron knew about the coupon idea since it was so pathetic.

"They didn’t know that Chevron’s Richmond refinery blew up not long ago and that they violated 62 EPA regulations there," Paz y Miño wrote on Amazon Watch. "They didn’t know that over 40 environmental and human rights NGOs recently condemned Chevron’s actions and over 100,000 people have sent messages to the U.S. Senate to complain about their abusive legal tactics."

Paz y Miño ended his post in a tongue-in-cheek manner, informing Chevron that the "30,000 Ecuadorians who sued you for polluting their homes and fouling their future will not be appeased by an order of empanadas and a six-pack of Inca Kola."

How Chevron settled on buying 100 gift certificates for $12 worth of pizza and soda remains a mystery, but Paz y Miño says it's hard to determine how much free pizza makes up for an environmental disaster.

"What would be enough pizza?" he asked.

He suggested that Chevron could donate free water for life to those in the community, adding that they will probably need it if the company continues fracking.

Although many in the community are upset about the pizza deal, Paz y Miño said it's par for course, since Chevron spends millions to greenwash and clean-up its image. He says there is no way Chevron can recover from this latest PR gaffe, unless the company decides to take responsibility for its actions.

Because Chevron continues to "point the finger at anyone and everyone who has ever criticized them," Paz y Miño said those who have criticized Chevron for its pizza coupons could find themselves being accused of extortion.