DEQ lines pockets at expense of Diamond community

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(New Orleans, La.)  The state Department of Environmental Quality was blasted today by the victims of Motiva's alleged criminal behavior. Diamond residents fault the department for not allocating money to relocate the citizens who suffer as the refinery's neighbors.  "The issue is relocation," said Margie Richard, President of Concerned Citizens of Norco, a group that has long been fighting for relocation from the Shell Motiva complex in Norco. "We are the ones who have complained for so long, and so hard. What has DEQ ever done? That money should be allocated toward getting us out of here."

Environmental groups concurred, and said they will work with the process to assure that the fine goes toward the Diamond community's goal of relocation. "DEQ is sorely out of touch with the issues in Norco," said Anne Rolfes, Director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an organization that helps community members monitor their air. "They must pressure Shell Motiva to relocate the entire Diamond neighborhood as part of this settlement instead of standing by and watching them divide this historic African American community."

The DEQ penalty fining Motiva was widely viewed as lenient, given the nature of the charges and the health effect on the communities.  "The emissions that Motiva agrees to reduce are known to cause respiratory ailments. But the settlement does not consider the children in the communities who suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases," said Monique Harden, an attorney with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. Odors from the Motiva facility are routinely in the Diamond neighborhood, and a startling number of children use nebulizers." "Sometimes it gets so bad I can't even go outside," said Rosemary Brown, Vice President of Concerned Citizens of Norco.

The Motiva response was bombarded by sceptism today, as community members talked of the terrible smells and flares they have experienced even since the investigation. Throughout the parish, the children and families of most plant managers live many miles away from the facilities. T. Allen Kirkley, manager of Motiva, lives with his family in Metarie, over 20 miles away from the Motiva facility. "The day that Mr. Kirkley moves to Diamond where the smells from Motiva waft over is the only day we can ever believe his promises to clean up the facility," said Ms. Rolfes.

Plant managers in Italy have been criminally prosecuted, some on charges of manslaughter, for operating dangerous facilities. Denny Larson, a refinery expert based in Oakland, Ca., called the amount of the fines "laughable. These plant managers need to go to jail for what they are doing," he said. "Millions of dollars mean nothing to them. They can make that much in a day."

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