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  ChevronTexaco Looking for a Few Good Friends
January 25, 2004

ChevronTexaco has recently invested in a major effort to strategize how best to further exploit the Richmond community. Pollsters of “Western Research” have been hired by ChevronTexaco to conduct exhaustive phone interviews with Richmond residents to ascertain their views on ChevronTexaco and such specific issues as the future use of Point Molate and whether or not the Richmond City Council should be recalled.


As a part of this overall effort, I received a faxed and unsigned letter from Richmond refinery Spinmeister Gary Fisher back in November alerting me to the fact that a representative from Charlton Research would be calling me to collect data to help ChevronTeaxaco “better communicate and improve relations between Chevron and its neighbors.”


Charlton Research works for the energy industry, helping them find ways to try to make the public love them. Their clients include Enron, Chemical Manufacturers Association, Chevron U.S.A., Baltimore Gas & Electric, Edison Electric Institute, Elcon, EnergyOne, Pacific Gas & Electric, Potomac Electric Power Company, PECO Energy Co., Northern States Power Company, Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas & Electric, Southern Company, Utilicorp United and Wisconsin Utilities Consortium.


The Charlton Research website notes that the firm “ … has also found that cultural biases, attitudes and opinions—not science—dictate the public’s assessment of risk. However, the risk models adopted by the public can vary geographically and from site to site. This is why we have developed a systematic methodology for assessing the composition of risk attitudes in any site community. The model allows you to assess whether your public has a perception of risk similar to some environmental groups—which generally believe that most emissions reductions do not correspond with adequate risk reduction—or whether your public is like many US corporations—which believe that most emissions reductions actually do results in reduced risk.”


When I received a call from the Charlton Research pollster, I declined the offer to answer his carefully crafted questions, informing him that ChevronTexaco General Manger for External Affairs Gary Fisher worked right across the “street” from me and could drop by or pick up the phone himself any time for some real communication. I would have been happy to communicate to Mr. Fisher my extreme disappointment that ChevronTexaco had stiffed the City of Richmond $1.2 million in utility user tax (almost enough to keep a fire station open), had created a “ring of death” around Point Molate that made it almost impossible for the City to develop it to its full potential and had reduced support of community-based organizations to an all-time low. I would have reminded him of the brush-off Richmond received when we wanted to meet with the ChevronTexaco chairman and CEO (see TOM BUTT E-FORUM September 7, 2003, “Chevrontexaco Chairman Disses Richmond Cm, Blows Off City Council.”


At any rate, Gary Fisher has chosen another vehicle, the West County Times “letters to the editor” to communicate with me. See TOM BUTT _E-FORUM December 19, 2003. Poor Chevron.


I would be interested to hear from others who have been polled by ChevronTexaco’s consultants and the type of questions they are asking. I hope you give them an earful. Among other things, they are probably gearing up for the 2004 City Council elections, trying to figure out how they can best spend their $100,000 to get a City Council who will treat them with the respect they have bought and paid for over most of the last 100 years.