Co-authored by Kristi Chester Vance
This morning, at a PepsiCo shareholder meeting in New Bern, North Carolina, representatives of the Sierra Club and ForestEthics delivered more than 64,000 petition signatures to CEO Indra Noyi, asking the company to stop buying fuel from tar sands refineries for its cars and delivery trucks. The petition delivery caps off nine months of campaigning that has mobilized activists nationwide to hold corporate consumers of oil accountable for the sources of their fuel.
At the meeting, the Sierra Club's Future Fleet campaign director Gina Coplon-Newfield addressed PepsiCo's top executives and board members.
"PepsiCo operates one of the largest vehicle fleets in North America, and the fuel in those cars and trucks should not come from the worst of the worst sources of oil," she said. "Companies have the power to avoid tar sands fuel, which is 22 percent more carbon intensive, more toxic, and more dangerous to mine, transport, and refine than conventional crude oil. This is a no-brainer for a company like PepsiCo that is looking to reduce its carbon pollution and demonstrate its commitment to sustainability."
Tamhas Griffith, a community activist from Martinez, California, traveled across the country to the PepsiCo meeting. Martinez is home to two large oil refineries, and Griffith was at the shareholder meeting representing community members who face long-term health threats from air and water pollution and the ever-present risk of refinery accidents and crude oil train explosions. As refineries across the country process more tar sands, communities like Martinez are exposed to even greater levels of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, lead, carbon dioxide, and other harmful pollutants.
"People in our communities have had enough of paying for oil industry record profits with the health of our families," said Griffith, founder of the Martinez Environmental Group. "We are organizing to hold oil companies and their corporate consumers accountable for their impact on our lives."
Griffith also cited the impact of tar sands development on communities in Alberta. "We stand in solidarity with those First Nations people in Alberta, out where the boreal forest is being strip-mined and the waters poisoned. These communities have been experiencing correspondingly higher levels of cancers like leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma over the past ten years, paying for corporate profits with their lives."
In response to their remarks, PepsiCo CEO Nooyi said, "we look forward to working with you to address this issue."
We will continue to send the message to America's biggest companies that tar sands is toxic for our communities and our environment -- and therefore toxic for their brands. We will keep up the pressure until demand for tar sands fuel is squashed, and Alberta's bitumen is kept safely in the ground.
Michael Marx is the Director of the Sierra Club beyond oil campaign. Kristi Chester Vance is the director of ForestEthics. Learn more about the Sierra Club and ForestEthics' tar sands campaign at www.tastesliketarsands.org