Valero is a U.S. oil refiner and retail gasoline brand based in San Antonio, Texas. Valero operates 15 refineries in North America, with 5,800 retail stores distributing fuel. Valero also owns the Diamond, Shamrock, Ultramar, and Beacon brands. Valero has rapidly become a major producer of ethanol fuel, purchasing 10 ethanol plants in less than a year.
Bill Klesse, Valero’s President, CEO and Chairman, was compensated a total of almost $11.7 million in 2009.
Valero’s Board of Directors has ties to Peabody Energy and Patriot Coal through Director Irl F. Engelhardt, and influence in the political system through Director Don Nickles, a former Republican Senator from Oklahoma. Nickles is the Chairman and CEO of the Nickles Group, a Washington-based corporate lobbying firm. The Nickles Group clientele includes Anadarko, ExxonMobil, and Southern Company, and has spent over $18.7 million on lobbying from 2008-2010.
Valero is at the forefront of attacks on California global warming legislation through Proposition 23, designed to suspend the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32). Valero gave just over $5 million to the effort, a majority of the Yes on 23 funding. Valero was cited on June 17 for a toxic chemical release at its refinery in Benicia, California. While industry opposition claims state legislation to address climate change is an economic threat, AB32 supporters counter that upholding climate legislation will be favorable for job creation and gross state product.
The Political Economy Research Institute ranks Valero #12 on their list of the top 100 air polluters in the United States, beating Duke Energy, BP, Southern Company, and other major industry polluters. Valero released 4.13 million pounds of toxic air pollutants in 2006. 59% of people exposed to Valero’s toxic releases, including ammonia, sulfuric acid, and benzene, are minorities. Valero faced a formal civil rights complaint in Corpus Christi, Texas due to accusations of environmental racism .
Valero is a frequent violator of air and water quality laws. In August, 2007, Valero was targeted by the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency for pollution-related offenses, paying a $4.25 million fine and agreeing to invest $147 million on pollution controls for three of their refineries. One of these refineries, in Port Arthur, Texas, had back-to-back accidents: a toxic release that sent residents to the hospital, and a fire at the refinery. Valero announced plans to expand the Port Arthur refinery several months later. Valero has been fined hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars on numerous other occasions.
Valero faced wrongful death lawsuits in 2005 at a Delaware refinery (which they recently sold) after two employees suffocated while doing maintenance work. Valero blamed the deaths on the victims, claiming they didn’t follow safety instructions, while the victim’s families asserted that the work permit for maintenance did not include suffocation hazard warnings. The same refinery had frequent accidents, deaths, injuries, and chemical releases from 2000-2005.
Valero’s federal lobbying expenditures since 2008 exceed $3.1 million. For the last three election cycles (2007-2012). Valero Energy PAC is one of the largest election spenders in the oil and gas industry, sending over $6.69 million to federal political candidates and committees.