SAN FRANCISCO, April 8 (Reuters) - Chevron Corp (CVX.N) will face a shareholder proposal next month for a report on the protection of people and the environment in countries where it operates, following a recent ruling by financial regulators.
The U.S. oil company is battling a $27 billion claim over environmental damage in Ecuador, where a ruling is expected this year, and that long-running case is among the issues cited by a group of mostly U.S. state and municipal funds in the proposal.
“We believe that Chevron’s record to date demonstrates a gap between its international environmental aspirations and its performance, which would be narrowed by a commitment to apply the highest environmental standards wherever the company operates,” the proposal said.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, in a decision posted on its website, did not agree with Chevron’s argument that the proposal should be excluded because it was too vague, too similar to a past proposal, or beyond the board’s power.
Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson, who could not comment on the specific proposal, said votes on similar issues at previous shareholder meetings garnered support of 8 percent to 10 percent. This year’s Chevron shareholder meeting is scheduled for May 27.
The shareholder group includes pension funds from the city and state of New York, Pennsylvania’s treasury, and Amnesty International, and collectively represented more than 20 million of the 2 billion-plus Chevron shares outstanding.
They note the San Ramon, California-based company operates in 180 countries, including some where environmental regimes may be less protective of human health and the environment than others.
It cites Ecuador as well as a case brought by Nigerians, in which Chevron was cleared of liability by a San Francisco jury in December, over a deadly clash in 1998 with Nigerian forces breaking up a protest on an oil platform over pollution and lack of jobs. An appeal of that decision was filed last week.
The group also mentions Unocal pipeline operations that led to deforestation in what is now Myanmar. Chevron bought Unocal in 2005, just weeks after Unocal settled a landmark U.S. court case of human rights abuses committed in Myanmar.
Plaintiffs in the Ecuador case, first brought by local peasants in the early 1990s, contend that Texaco — bought by Chevron in 2001 — polluted the jungle and damaged their health by dumping billions of gallons of contaminated water from 1972 to 1992.
Chevron has questioned the independence of the scientists who calculated the $27 billion in damages and has asked the judge to discard the claim. [ID:nN12282159]
Two weeks ago, the judge completed the last of more than 100 field inspections of former Texaco oil production sites, according to the Amazon Defense Coalition. (Reporting by Braden Reddall; editing by Gunna Dickson)