Margie Richard Honored in New Orleans: First African American to Win Goldman Environmental Prize First Louisiana Appearance Since Award Will Highlight Marathon Refinery's Unjust Relocation Program

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For Immediate Release: April 28th, 2004
Contact: Denny Larson, Refinery Reform Campaign, (415) 845 – 4705
Anne Rolfes, Director, LA Bucket Brigade (504) 914 – 3164

Media Availability: 4/29/2004, 3 PM – 4:30 PM, La Bucket Brigade Office, 1036 Napoleon Avenue, New Orleans, La



(New Orleans) In her first statewide appearance since winning the Goldman Environmental Prize on April 19th, Margie Richard stands in solidarity today with residents of Lions, Louisiana, who are under pressure from oil giant Marathon to accept a relocation offer. “We are looking to Marathon and other big companies for their humanity,” said Ms. Richard. “Do right by people, look after their health. Operate cleaner, smarter, better.”

The solidarity comes after an attempt to keep Lions community members away from Ms. Richard and her success with the Shell buy out in Norco. “We were told not to talk to Margie Richard,” said Gaynell Davis of Lions.

Residents of Lions report being pressured to hurry and make a decision about a buy out plan recently offered by Marathon. “We are being pushed into hurrying up and buying out,” said Ms. Davis. “We are not even given time to think, it’s all a big rush. We need to look down the road with what’s going to happen with our health because of Marathon’s chemicals.”

Marathon’s tactics appear to be a combination of strategies; aspects of the relocation resemble Royal Dutch Shell’s buy out plan in Norco. The high pressure tactics and the one on one negotiation with community members are strategies that Shell ultimately abandoned as they came under fire from Ms. Richard and her community in Norco.

“It is shameful that in the year 2004 Marathon is operating in an old, worn out and manipulative manner. They are putting pressure on little old ladies to hurry and sell their homes,” said Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “Marathon’s neighbors have been exposed to toxic chemicals for decades. Why is Marathon suddenly in a hurry?”

The tactics in Lions reflect national trends, according to Denny Larson of the Refinery Reform Campaign. “Industries all over the country are trying to secretly relocate their fenceline neighbors without proper compensation, both for their property and health. The awarding of the Goldman Prize to Margie Richard signals that communities across the country will no longer tolerate this kind of behavior.”

Signs posted in the neighborhood illuminate the hurry up tactics, including financial incentives, used by Marathon. “Sign up for an appraisal by January 14th and receive a $1,000 bonus at closing,” reads one. “This is not just about property, it’s about health and the whole person,” said Ms. Richard.

Marathon’s buy out program comes amidst ongoing problems at the company. The refinery was named Clean Air Villain of the Month for April by Washington, D.C. based Clean Air Trust. Local experiences reflect these national trends. “We have been having a lot of problems with the plant explosions,” said Gaynell Davis. “We are not being told anything when there is an explosion. We are just worried about our health.”

“Margie’s award means that business as usual along Cancer Alley is over,” said Ms. Rolfes. “These companies have gobbled up our land and our health. We are drawing a line in the sand today and saying ‘No more.’”

What: Ms. Richard and Ms. Davis will be at the office of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and available to the media from 3 PM – 4:30 PM.

When: Today, Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Where: Offices of LA Bucket Brigade, 1036 Napoleon Avenue at Chestnut, New Orleans

Members of the media are welcome to stay for a reception honoring Ms. Richard from 4:30 – 6:30 PM.

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