Shell shuts door on relocation talks with Norco community: Company refuses to meet with expert, then changes mind

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(Norco, La.) The Concerned Citizens of Norco, the community group that has been battling Shell to relocate them, is today blasting the company for its refusal this week to meet with the community. "They told us before that they'd meet anytime, anywhere," said Margie Richard, President of the group. That promise was exposed as empty when Shell refused two invitations early this week to meet with the group and its relocation expert, Michael Lythcott. In a dramatic about face yesterday, Shell said it would meet today with the Mr. Lythcott, but would meet only one neighborhood representative.

"Why won't they meet with our entire board?" said Gaynel Johnson, a Diamond resident. "They are trying to divide us in a meeting the same way they are trying to divide our neighborhood." Shell is currently attempting to buy half of the historic African American neighborhood with an offer to buy only two of the neighborhood's four streets. The company refuses to discuss the possibility of keeping the community, whose roots go back to slavery days, together in a relocation package. "The old strategy of divide and conquer used in the slave days is at play here," said Ms. Richard.

Michael Lythcott, an expert who has successfully relocated Louisiana residents away from the Dow chemical facility in Plaquemine, is now assisting Concerned Citizens of Norco. Shell's refusals early this week break the company precedent of working with Mr. Lythcott, who worked out a relocation plan with Shell that relocated residents in a Los Angeles neighborhood affected by a Shell industrial site. "Finally they have agreed to meet with Mr. Lythcott, but you have to wonder why they will only let one community representative in the door," said Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an organization that supports the Diamond residents' struggle for relocation. "Shell is trying to deprive the citizens of their right to even speak up for themselves. It's despicable."

The press conference today will include an outline of the Shell relocation program and its flaws by Mr. Lythcott, the relocation expert who successfully relocated residents of Morrisonville, La. away from Dow Chemical.

Where: Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, 400 Magazine Street (at Poydras). 4th Floor

When: 11 AM, Wednesday, May 16, 2001

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