(Norco, La.) Diamond residents and Shell critics lambasted Shell Chemical on Monday night for its deceit as exposed in The Bill Moyers program Trade Secrets. "We have known all along about their tricks and their ploys," said Margie Richard, President of Concerned Citizens of Norco. "Now Shell has been shamed before the world. Move us away from this deceitful neighbor."
The PBS program named Shell as one of several chemical companies that covered up a study regarding carcinogenity of chemicals. Historians on the program called the cover up "a conspiracy." Diamond residents say that the notion of Shell embroiled in a conspiracy is nothing new to them. "They have been telling us stories for decades," said Hazel Davis of Diamond. "We are not surprised by a thing in that program. But we are angry."
Diamond residents are particularly skeptical of a health study that Shell consistently quotes, claiming their workers are healthier than average. "This program shows that we can't believe a word that Shell managers say about health," said Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. "Bill Moyers used industry's own documents to show that health studies are manipulated so that industry gets the results it wants." Chemical companies have used various tricks to affect the results, including studying people who never work with the chemicals - secretaries and delivery people. "At the end of the day, their tricky studies don't matter because the workers go home. We stay here, trapped with these chemicals," said Ms. Richard.
Much of Bill Moyers' special was devoted to the public relations machine of the industry. That PR has been felt by the Diamond community, as Shell managers even today try to "spin" events in their favor. "Look at what they are calling the Good Neighbor Program," said Ms. Rolfes. "This has come about because the Diamond residents agitated for 30 years. Now Shell is trying to pretend it suddenly cares. Ha. It's laughable. They made up the program because they were getting shamed by Concerned Citizens of Norco who manage to beat the Shell PR machine with a minuscule fraction of the funds."
The recent settlement between DEQ and Shell Motiva is another example of Shell Norco's PR machine. "Shell has been shamed by a criminal investigation, forced to take action in the community," said Ms. Richard. "Now they are pretending like they want to monitor the air and do good things. DEQ is forcing them to do it." This recent event falls in the pattern of the company taking credit for incidents it should actually be ashamed of. "If they would just relocate all four streets they could save so much money on public relations," said Ms. Richard.
The residents warn of a press offensive by the Louisiana Chemical Association. "None of us argues with the usefulness of chemicals," said Ms. Richard, responding to the repeated response of industry to the program. "But do they have to kill us to make them? Get us out."