Shell goes back on past promises: Buys disputed area of Norco; refuses to relocate residents

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(Norco, La.) The African American residents of Norco blasted Shell today for buying property that surrounds their neighborhood at the same time that the corporation refuses to buy their residential property for a fair price. "All this time, they won't buy us out, and now they buy here, there all around us," said Gaynel Johnson, a lifetime resident of the Diamond neighborhood. "Why are they surrounding us?" Residents believe that they are to be the victims of increasing industrial expansion, with Shell continuing its trend of expanding its facilities to people's front doors.

"Fifty years ago Shell moved in and said they only wanted a tiny piece of property. Then they expanded all the way to my front door," said Margie Richard, President of Concerned Citizens of Norco, the citizens group that has been leading the battle for relocation. "Why should we believe that they'd change their ways now?"

For the past year, Shell has claimed that property purchases in Norco are following the 30-year old plan for a greenbelt. It is based on this claim - needing to stick to the old program - that Shell has refused to buy out other residents who want to move. This sudden purchase by Shell of additional property contradicts what the corporation has been saying and has the residents feeling as if they are trapped by Shell; Shell won't buy them out, but will buy the land all around them.

"This is a serious breach of trust by Shell," said Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an organization that has supported the Diamond residents' battle for relocation. "The community of Diamond has been working with Shell, believing what they say to be true. Now the company makes a land deal behind their backs. It's a slap in the face."

What: Families in Norco's African American neighborhood - known as Diamond - will stage a stormy press conference and protest beside property recently purchased by Shell Oil. The purchase of this property contradicts Shell's past promises concerning property purchases. Residents feel encircled and trapped by the corporation.

Where: First Street at East. In the Diamond neighborhood, right near the property in question. Location will be obvious once you are on First Street.

DIRECTIONS FROM NEW ORLEANS: Take 10 West, exit at the 310 Boutte / Houma exit. Follow signs to Norco. These signs will put you on Airline Highway. Follow Airline Hghwy for a few miles, pass a strip mall on your left with a Burger King and Eckerds. Pass Orion Refining and Motiva Refinery on your left. Come to stop light that is APPLE STREET (if you go over the spillway bridge on the way to LaPlace, you have gone too far). Drive down Apple St., cross two railroad tracks until you come to First St. Turn right. Drive four or five blocks until you come to the intersection with East St. The people will be on your right. You have found the press conference.

When: Wednesday, August 22, 2001 - 11:15 AM.

Media visuals: People worked up and mad at Shell. Colorful banners and signs.

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