New Sarpy community extends olive branch to troubled Orion Refinery after years of contention

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(June 19, 2002) Calling Shell's fair treatment and willingness to listen to the Norco community a "beacon that Orion should follow," long suffering neighbors of Orion Refining today put down their picket signs and bull horns and asked Orion officials to meet with them face to face in a moderated dialogue to resolve the long standing, bitter dispute between the neighbors and the troubled refinery. "We've been fighting just as long as they have over there in Norco," said Dorothy Jenkins, President of the Concerned Citizens of New Sarpy. "It's time for us to get out from under this plant. We are ready to talk."

A June 14th letter from the community group laid out the vision for a negotiated end to the long running dispute. "The recent program offered by Shell to residents in Norco," read the letter, "has set a positive example of what can happen when a refinery truly listens to its neighbors. We ask that Orion Refining Corporation finally begin to listen to us. We extend the offer of talks regarding relocation, moderated by outside, impartial facilitators." 

The letter was faxed, e-mailed and hand delivered to Orion CEO Clark Johnson on Friday. Orion officials have acknowledged receipt, and New Sarpy residents expect their presence at an 11:00 AM meeting in the community. "We have spent a lot of time and effort arguing over the fence for the last several years," said Don Winston of New Sarpy. "It's time to sit down and get these problems worked out."

Orion Refinery is mere steps away from the community, and frequent fires and spills at the plant have residents frightened. June marks the year anniversary of the refinery's fire that raged for 14 hours. The fire was caused when faulty drainage on a tank lid caused it to submerge beneath gasoline. Lightening struck and an inferno ensued. Residents were trapped in their homes. Orion's own records show that the problems continue. The facility averages over one accident, also known as a "reportable incident," every week. Residents have long demanded relocation away from these hazards to a safe environment.

"The handwriting is on the wall," said Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a group that helps New Sarpy community members sample their air. "Shell has shown us how business should be conducted in the 21st century. It is time for Orion to emerge from the Dark Ages and deal squarely with the community." 

The Concerned Citizens of New Sarpy have composed a list of over 25 government, environmental, health, and human rights organizations to which they will go for assistance if Orion denies their request for reasonable dialogue. "We want to talk and set things right," said Ms. Jenkins, "but if Orion refuses we have people who can help us. And we will use them. Just like they did in Norco."

What:     Press Conference following the meeting with Orion officials
When:    11:30 AM, Wednesday, June 19, 2002
Where: Attebury Hall, behind the Sheriff's Substation in New Sarpy (25 minutes from New Orleans)

From I-10 West take 310, the Boutte / Houma exit. Follow the signs to Norco. You will come out on Airline Highway, 61. Drive past a strip mall with a Winn Dixie and Burger King. Turn left at the light between Burger King and Eckerd's. Drive all the way down to River Road.  Turn right and drive a bit. The Sheriff's Office will be on your right. Attebury Hall is behind it. If you get lost, call (504) 914 - 3164.

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