Shell’s 60 day deadline for commercial offers to Diamond long passed: Diamond community demanding written relocation offers

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(July 25, 2000) After promising in March to return to the Diamond community in 60 days with offers based on commercial property value, Shell Motiva managers Jim Kimes and Allen Kirkley have let the deadline come and go with no offer. “They called a meeting this month and talked about community money and a job training program,” said Margie Richard, President of Concerned Citizens of Norco. “That’s not what we asked for. That’s all just distractions. What we demand is relocation.” Mary Hollins, a Diamond resident, asked Jim Kimes about the 60-day deadline. “Since the deadline fell on a Saturday, Mr. Kimes told me that it wouldn’t be exactly 60 days, that they just meant about that time.”

The Diamond community is used to delays and broken promises from Shell. George Eugene has lived near the facility since it first began in Norco. “I am tired of the fumes and the coughing all night and all day,” he said. Anne Rolfes of Communities for a Better Environment, an activist who works with the Diamond community’s Bucket Brigade, says that Shell’s actions are part of an overall strategy. “Instead of saying no to relocation, they stall, they talk to individual members of the community and try to divide them, and they bring up topics other than relocation. This happens to communities all over the country.”

In the meeting earlier this month, Shell managers said they would offer to buy out two Diamond streets, Washington and Cathy. Community members note that Shell has been buying property in Diamond at low prices since the early 1970’s. “Why would we sell our property at such a low price now if we wouldn’t then?” said Percy Hollins, a Diamond resident who has been taking air samples as part of the Bucket Brigade. Shell had a pre-approved list of invitees to the meeting, and many community members were turned away from the Shell gates and prevented from attending the meeting.

In a July 25th letter to Shell managers, Diamond residents call for relocation offers to be made in writing. To this point, all offers to the community have been verbal. Without those offers in writing, there is no record. “It’s easy for them to change their story, or say they didn’t say what we know we heard if there is no written record,” said Ms. Richard. Percy Hollins agreed. “We need things written down. And if we meet one on one with them, then we must have an attorney present.” “They need to deal with us like they deal with any business situation. To ask for things in writing is not unreasonable,” said Ms. Richard.

Shell Motiva has had problems with groups other than the Diamond Community. In June, the EPA and state DEQ cracked down on the Shell Motiva refinery for violating environmental regulations. “A federal regulator called senior management evasive,” said Anne Rolfes. “That’s exactly how they are with the Diamond community. Evasive.” The DEQ found that the refinery violated the Clean Air Act; the EPA found similar violations of air and water regulations. The official findings support the community’s own Bucket Brigade results. “My bucket has found the same amount of chemicals as DEQ did. I have looked at the comparisons and they are identical,” said Mr. Hollins.

The community remains committed to relocation for all four streets in the Diamond community. Said Doris Tollard who lives near the plant’s high-powered electrical wires, “I am tired of the noise, the odors and the site every day of my life.”

Attached: Letter from Concerned Citizens of Norco to Shell Motiva.

Concerned Citizens of Norco                                

July 25, 2000

Dear Mr. Kimes and Mr. Kirkley:

This letter is in response to recent issues that have arisen regarding the relocation of our community. We look forward to soon reaching a settlement that is acceptable to all Diamond citizens.

The meeting that was held at the Shell Motiva facility earlier this month excluded many members of our community. You made the list of invitees, thereby deciding for us who would represent our community. The African-American community in general and the Diamond community in particular has a painful history of being pushed to the back seat while others make decisions. In the future, please know that we may agree to proposed meeting dates, but the Diamond community will decide who attends the meetings. We do not need you to make lists of invitees.

During the meeting you stated that you would purchase Washington and Cathy Streets for a buffer zone. There is nothing new about this offer – it is the same one that has been made since the 1970’s. This offer is not acceptable. We will not accept any offer in which promises are made to a few people. The Diamond Community includes four streets, including East and Diamond. We are a community and relocation must include us all.

An additional offer made was regarding air monitors. We are pleased that you recognize the need for us to monitor our air. The method that we prefer is the EPA approved Bucket Brigade. We will be happy to accept money from Shell Motiva to fund additional buckets, lab analyses, and the funds necessary to keep the project going.  We will provide a budget so that you will know how much to allocate.

The other programs you discussed were a training program and trustee account. These programs might be helpful to us once we are relocated. We can discuss them. The bulk of your energy, money and attention, however, now needs to go to a serious relocation offer.

In the future, we ask that offers be made in writing. This includes all offers that you make to the community, including programs like funding the Bucket Brigade and dollar amounts that you will offer for specific pieces of property.  Please fax offers to us ahead of time. We will then be able to come to meetings prepared and ready to make progress. Community advisors may be present at all meetings. Any meetings conducted one on one to discuss terms for property will of course include an attorney. We will expect those offers soon, since the 60-day deadline has long passed.

If you would like to communicate with our group, please contact us at the numbers provided.

Every item mentioned above is of great importance. We know that every letter we write and every meeting we have brings us one step close to our goal: relocation for all four streets in the Diamond community.

Sincerely,

Concerned Citizens of Norco

Margie Richard, President                Rosemary Brown, Vice President
764 – 8135                        764 - 8225

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