Norco residents up the ante in shell relocation battle

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(Norco, La.) The Diamond citizens of Norco, La. increased the pressure on Shell today by bringing Michael Lythcott, a nationally recognized expert, into the battle for relocation. “This man has negotiated successfully for other Louisiana communities,” said Margie Richard, President of Concerned Citizens of Norco. “We know that with the citizens’ guidance he can convince Shell to do the right thing.” Mr. Lythcott was the chief architect of the Prudential plan that relocated the town of Morrisonville, La. from Dow Chemical in the late 1980’s. Diamond residents continue to reject Shell’s offer since it offers low prices for their homes and excludes half of their historic neighborhood.

The arrival of Mr. Lythcott to the scene is significant because of his prior success in negotiating relocation packages in Louisiana. He was a key figure at Prudential in the Morrisonville plan. Shell has hired Prudential to configure the package for the Norco citizens. “Dow Chemical hired Prudential and Prudential hired me,” said Mr. Lythcott of his design of the Morrisonville Program. “That was Prudential’s first environmental relocation, a voluntary property purchase program.” Residents of Diamond believe that Mr. Lythcott’s familiarity with the program enables him to see the problems in Shell’s current offer.

Diamond residents consider Mr. Lythcott to be another weapon in their arsenal which is becoming exceedingly powerful, including national groups like Greenpeace and investors concerned about Shell’s operations in Norco. “We have never been able to trust Shell,” said Gaynel Johnson, a resident of Diamond who is not included in the program. “Michael Lythcott is helping us find all of the tricky aspects of Shell’s relocation program. They’ve tricked us in the past, we know they are trying to trick us now.”

Diamond residents have already exposed many problems in Shell’s offer, including property appraisal methods that low-balled property values on the two streets. “These have been typical Shell negotiations,” said Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “They tried to get off cheaply but the residents are smart and revealed problems in their plan, and Shell has had to make a better offer. Shell should have put forth their best offer in the first place.”

Diamond supporters and residents believe that Mr. Lythcott’s presence will ensure that any deal is fair to the residents. “Shell has retained Prudential to look after their interests in terms of the property purchase program,” said Mr. Lythcott.  “I am pleased to be able to offer a comparable expertise of resources to look after the community interests.”


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