Old Diamond Community Relocate After Years of Struggle

After years of struggle for relocation away from Shell facilities, Concerned Citizens of Norco achieved an environmental justice victory. The group is organized by African American families living in the Diamond Community of Norco, Louisiana.

On June 9, 2002, Concerned Citizens of Norco and Shell announced to the Diamond Community the "Diamond Options Program" that allows residents to relocate away from Shell facilities. In addition, Shell committed to investing $200 million in environmental improvements at its facilities. This program marks a historic moment for both Shell and communities that are on the fencelines of industrial facilities.

The residents of the Diamond Community have long complained about harmful toxic chemicals spewing from Shell's chemical facility that was located across the street from residents' homes.ˇ A survey conducted by the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice found that over 35% of husbands and wives reported they have suffered chest pains or respiratory congestion. The survey also showed that 34.5% of the Diamond community children have asthma and 27.8% have bronchitis. For years, residents have protested against the foul odors and soaring flares from the nearby facility that shadows their community. Their struggle has not been in vain, as Shell has agreed to offer residents under the "Diamond Options Program" the choice of either relocating away from its facilities or remaining in Diamond to take advantage of home improvement and community development programs.

For years, Shell refused to offer relocation to residents of the Diamond Community, who suffered many losses including a nuisance lawsuit.ˇ Then in the year 2001 after significant media attention to the plight of Diamond residents, Shell agreed to offer relocation to one-half of the residents living on two of the four streets that make up the Diamond Community.ˇ This move resulted in dividing families and breaking communal bonds that lasted from generation to generation for more than 100 years.ˇ However, Concerned Citizens of Norco never gave up the struggle for relocating the entire community.ˇ In a remarkable series of facilitated discussions to resolve the relocation issue, Concerned Citizens of Norco, allied organizations, including the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, and Shell achieved a victory called the ?Diamond Options Program? and Shell?s commitment to invest $200 million in environmental improvements at its facilities.

Concerned Citizens of Norco is aided by a diverse coalition of supporters that include Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), who demanded that Shell US CEO Steve Miller offer relocation to all residents of the Diamond Community.ˇ (click here for Waters' correspondence and news reports).ˇ In addition, the socially responsible investment group, Trillium Asset Management, joined in the call for Shell to offer relocation to Diamond residents and brought this issue to the attention of Shell investors. (click here for link to their website pages)

Concerned Citizens of Norco continues to count on the support of environmental justice and environmental organizations that participated in two months of facilitated discussions between Shell and Concerned Citizens of Norco that focused on resolving the relocation issue and ultimately resulted in the Diamond Options Program.ˇˇ These organizations include Commonweal, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Earthjustice, Environmental Health Fund, LA Bucket Brigade, Refinery Reform, and Dr. Wilma Subra, The Subra Company.ˇ In addition, the Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club has contributed to raising public awareness about the plight of Diamond residents and providing resources that enabled Concerned Citizens of Norco to monitor air pollution and travel to advocate before organizations and governmental decision-makers.

"We have come to recognize the Diamond neighborhood is truly unique. The community is like an extended family, and we realize now that our previous efforts to create a greenbelt around our facilities may have created difficulties for some families and caregivers in the Diamond neighborhood. While our first preference is to preserve the historic fabric of the Diamond neighborhood, we believe it is important to give residents the choice of determining what is best for their families."
-- Wayne Pearce, Shell Chemical Site Manager & Armand Abay, Motiva General Manager

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[ "Comments from Shell & Concerned Citizens of Norco"]
"In March of this year, environmental organizations helped us to arrange open and frank dialogue sessions with Shell representatives. These sessions focused on the issue of relocation in the Diamond community and included discussions of improvements at Shell facilities as well as community development programs in the Diamond community and the rest of Norco. I want to tell you that these sessions have not been easy to participate in because of the history and our experiences of living with the impacts of the facility and the impacts of Shell?s decision to relocate just one-half of our tight-knit community of families and friends.
What we wanted was for Shell to offer residents the choice of relocating from Norco in a fair and just way. For the last two months, Concerned Citizens of Norco has met with Shell and our supporting environmental organizations to work on resolving the issue of relocation. Many a night, we have worked late into the evening carefully planning our next steps and keeping our community involved. We have been frustrated and challenged, but we were always hopeful and dedicated to bringing about a positive result."
-- Delwyn Smith, President

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["Comments from Delwyn Smith, President of Concerned Citizens of Norco"]
Concerned Citizens of Norco