The Times-Picayune: Activists will host environmental session; Norco residents near plants on agenda

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Copyright 2003 The Times-Picayune Publishing Company
Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA)

May 15, 2003 Thursday


LENGTH: 469 words

HEADLINE: Activists will host environmental session;
Norco residents near plants on agenda

BYLINE: By Mark Schleifstein; Staff writer

Jewish environmental activists from throughout the nation will gather in Utica, Miss., this
weekend to discuss ways to deal with environmental justice issues, and part of their focus
will be the Norco community in St. Charles Parish.

"We're going to be talking about how too many people live just across the street from
petrochemical giants," said Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade,
which teaches local residents how to collect air samples in neighborhoods surrounding
chemical plants.

The group for several years has been collecting samples in the Diamond neighborhood
surrounding Norco's Shell and Motiva petrochemical complex.

Also speaking will be Margie Richard, former president of the Concerned Citizens of
Norco, which helped persuade Shell and Motiva officials to buy neighboring homes.
Starting in 2000, Shell and Motiva stepped up efforts to buy property along their fence
lines in an effort to prevent environmental clashes with their neighbors.

"The fact that families live across the street from petrochemical plants still comes as a
shock to people," Rolfes said. "You've got entire neighborhoods sandwiched between
dangerous facilities, and when you consider that African-Americans are a large majority
of the people there, something needs to be done about it."

The conference begins tonight at Jacobs Camp in Utica, a summer camp operated by the
Reform Jewish movement, and lasts through Sunday. The council has conducted similar
leadership institutes since 1997, but this is the first time it has been held in the South, said
Mark Jacobs, founding director. The council is a coalition of 29 national Jewish
organizations and is a member of the National Religious Partnership of the Environment.
Jacobs said attendees also will discuss how to deal with a variety of environmental issues
at the local level, including global climate change, species protection, "and the
importance of leaving viable habitats for future generations." 

Also speaking at the conference will be:
 -- Filmmaker Judith Helfand, whose 2002 production, "Blue Vinyl," premiered at the
Sundance Film Festival. The documentary centers on the production of polyvinyl
chloride, the chemical compound used to make vinyl, in Lake Charles.

-- Rabbi Daniel Swartz, executive director of the Children's Environmental Health

-- Rabbi Arthur Waskow, the author of a variety of books on Judaism and ecology and
director of The Shalom Center in Philadelphia, Pa.

For information about the conference or to register, visit the COEJL Web site at or call (212) 684-6950, Ext. 210.

For information on the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, contact Rolfes at 914-3164.
. . . . . . .

Mark Schleifstein can be reached at or (504) 826-3327.

LOAD-DATE: May 16, 2003 

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