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Royal Dutch Shell plc (LSE: RDSA, RDSB), commonly known as Shell, is an Anglo–Dutch multinational oil and gas company headquartered in the Netherlands and incorporated in the United Kingdomhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Dutch_Shell

Diamond Community Area, Norco, Louisiana
Diamond Community area Norco Louisiana
Children in Diamond Community
From USCSB 2012 refinery fire safety vid
From USCSB vid of a 2012 refinery fire: http://youtu.be/QiILbGbk8Qk

Shell plant explosion in Diamond, Louisiana

The Shell Plant Explosion in Diamond, Louisiana refers to two explosions that occurred in the community in 1973 and 1988. The incident in 1973 occurred when a sixteen-year-old, Leroy Jones, was cutting grass for Helen Washington, who was taking a nap on her porch in the Diamond community. The plant released a plume of gas. A spark from the lawnmower ignited the plume of gas and the flames that resulted engulfed Leroy Jones and Helen Washington.

The second explosion occurred in 1988. An early morning explosion from the plant killed seven Shell workers, destroyed homes in the Diamond community, and released 159 million pounds of chemical waste into the atmosphere. Residents still suffer from early illnesses and deaths as a result of the toxic fumes. Citizens have fought Shell Oil since the 1973 explosion. On June 11, 2002, the Concerned Citizens of Norco finished open discussions and negotiations with Shell Oil. The settlement created two programs, the Property Purchase Program and the Home Improvement Program…

Background Information

Norco, Louisiana is located along the Mississippi River approximately 25 air miles north of New Orleans. “The community is in between a chemical plant and an oil refinery. Norco is a part of what is known as “Cancer Alley”. Norco is named for the New Orleans Refining Company.

In 1916, a Shell affiliate built an oil refinery on the site of an antebellum plantation. In 1953, a second Shell bought a second plantation site. The property that Shell bought was the site of a major slave revolt in 1811. Black sharecroppers were farming the land when Shell announced that they were building a chemical plant. The black sharecroppers moved across the road from the plantation and into a subdivision that became known as Diamond. Sharecroppers originally welcomed Shell because they thought that the company would bring more jobs. This wasn’t the case. Shell brought in predominantly white workers to work at the plant. These workers moved into the nicer neighborhoods of Norco. Even today, there are few black workers at the plant (personal opinion not substantiated by fact). The town also remains segregated. Diamond is entirely black and the rest of Norco is mainly white.[1]

Explosion of 1973

The explosion occurred on a summer day in 1973. A Shell pipeline began to leak. The pipeline ran along Washington Street in the Diamond community. The pipeline also forms a fence line between the industrial facility and the Diamond community. Many residents recall seeing a white cloud of gas traveling down Washington Street. Nearby, Leroy Jones, a sixteen-year-old in the Diamond community, was cutting the grass at the home of Helen Washington, an elderly citizen of the Diamond community. Helen Washington was taking a nap on her front porch when Leroy Jones decided to take a break from cutting grass so he could talk to his neighbors. When he started the lawnmower again, a spark from the lawnmower ignited the fumes that had leaked from the Shell pipeline. This led to an explosion that severely burned Leroy Jones and burned down Helen Washington’s house.[2] Leroy Jones was taken to the hospital by emergency workers and was treated for injuries. He eventually died a few days later in the hospital. Helen Washington burned in her house and died immediately. It is unknown exactly how much the victim’s families were compensated for the deaths. Several citizens claim that relatives of Helen Washington received $3,000 for her destroyed house and the land surrounding it. Citizens claim that the mother of Leroy Jones was paid $500 for the death of her son. There is no record of the fatalities and there is no mention of the accident in the Shell Norco Museum.[3]

Explosion of 1988

The explosion of 1988 is also referred to as the “big bang”. This occurred at 3:40 A.M. on May 5, 1988. The explosion was caused by a catalytic cracking unit that blew up at the Shell refinery. A pipeline, which was eight inches in diameter, was corroded. This caused 20,000 pounds of C-3 hydrocarbons to escape. A vapor formed and ignited causing a major explosion. Damage from the explosion radiated one mile from the center of the explosion and debris could be found as far as five miles from the center of the explosion. The blast could be heard approximately 25 miles away in New Orleans. There were reports that the blast set off burglar alarms in New Orleans. The explosion caused a fire to burn for eight hours at the oil refinery before it was brought under control. Chemicals that escaped during the explosion resulted in cars and homes being covered by a black film. The governor declared a state of emergency in Norco and St. Charles Parish. Seven shell workers were killed during the explosion and 48 residents and Shell workers were injured in the explosion. The explosion released 159 million toxic chemicals into the air, which led to widespread damage and the evacuating on 4,500 people.[4]“. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shell_plant_explosion_in_Diamond,_Louisiana

US OSHA: “Inspection: 100478866 – Shell Oil Company
Accident Investigation Summary
Summary Nr: 14391494 Event: 05/05/1988
Eight Employees Killed, 18 Injured In Refinery Explosion At 3:37 a.m. on May 5, 1988, an explosion occurred in the catalytic cracking unit (CCU) of an oil and gas refinery. The explosion apparently was the result of corrosion of an 8-inch vapor line. This vapor line, under 270 psi pressure, ran from a 10-inch header that originated as the main overhead vapor line from the depropanizer column. The apparent instantaneous line failure released approximately 17,000 pounds of hydrocarbon vapor for approximately 30 seconds. A possible ignition source could have been the unit’s superheater furnace. The damage pattern indicated that the explosion was probably an aerial explosion with an epicenter located in the area between the depropanizer and the CCU control room. Employees #1, #2, #4, #5, and #7 were found fatally injured inside the CCU control room as a direct result of the blast. Employee #3 was found fatally injured approximately 30 feet outside the west side of the CCU control room as a direct result of the blast. Employee #6 was fatally injured while he was exiting the GO-1 South control room. The negative pressure wave of the explosion apparently created a vacuum that caused the east brick wall of GO-1 South to be “sucked” toward the CCU and then to fall on Employee #6. Employee #8 was on the northwest side of the reactor-regenerator vessels in the CCU and was critically injured as a result of the blast. The rest of the employees, #9 through #26, were in different units in the refinery at the time of the explosion. All received varying injuries to different degrees as a direct result of the explosion.
https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.inspection_detail?id=100478866

Health Related Illnesses

Many of the residents of the Diamond community suffer from sickness and illness associated with the oil refinery. Many residents claim that they suffer from headaches, nausea, dizziness, congestion, sore throats, and difficulty breathing on a regular basis. Residents claim that when they leave the Diamond area, their health improves. Once they return, their health begins to deteriorate again. A study was done in 1997 by Xavier University Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. The study concluded that 34% of children in the Diamond area suffer from asthma problems. One-fourth of all the women and children surveyed had to visit the hospital due to respiratory problems.[5] Residents also claim to suffer from psychological issues associated with the explosions of 1973 and 1988. Some of the residents claim that they sleep in their clothes so that they will be ready to evacuate in the case of another explosion. Residents also claim that they have flashbacks of the 1973 and 1988 explosions.

Concerned Citizens of Norco

Since the explosion of 1973 and 1988, a group called the Concerned Citizens of Norco has attempted to engage in open discussions with Shell Chemical LP…[6]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shell_plant_explosion_in_Diamond,_Louisiana

Read criticism of the property buy back. “Fair value” near a toxic chemical plant is inadequate to move elsewhere: http://s3.amazonaws.com/corpwatch.org/downloads/norco.pdf

The above case is considered a “classic” example of environmental racism. The dumping of radioactive waste from Germany, Canada, and elsewhere at the Savannah River Nuclear site certainly appears to be a similar case of environmental racism. If it were only from the US then you could argue that it is because nuclear sites are generally on waterways, as were poor, often black, agricultural workers. But, it doesn’t explain why radioactive-nuclear waste from predominantly white countries is being effectively dumped on poor and black people at the Savannah River site: It is important to note that the three counties in which the Savannah River site is located are disproportionately poor and disproportionately African American, compared to the US averages. In particular, the most downriver county of the site, Allendale is 72.9% black compared to the US average of 13.1%. It has household incomes, which are less than half of the US average, and, thus not surprisingly, has over twice as many people under the poverty level, as the US average. See: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/germany-to-dump-high-level-radioactive-waste-on-the-poor-african-americans-savannah-river-site-usa/ The current governor of South Carolina, who is from India, is pushing the over-priced MOX facility, which will just cause more nuclear waste and more danger. Strangely, the governor of Louisiana is also from India. However, at the time of the above accidents the governor was Edwin Edwards who is remembered for having done a lot for blacks, but appears to have been involved in covering up the unfiltered burning of hazardous waste near a poor black community in North Baton Rouge, Louisiana in the early 1990s. For the story of the case see: http://smokeschool.net/whoneedscertified.htm It turns out that they were also illegally burning radioactive waste: “ Martin Marietta Energy Systems–the company that operates the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Oak Ridge, Tennessee), the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (Paducah, Kentucky), and the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (Portsmouth, Ohio)–sent its president, Clyde Hopkins, to testify that his employees had been illegally shipping radioactive wastes to waste disposers like Rollins and Chem Waste for years. He said his employees used white-out illegally to delete information from shipping manifests indicating that the wastes were radioactive because they believed “national security considerations” required them to… He testified that his staff had been shipping uranium-238, uranium-235 and technetium-99 mixed in with chemical wastes. Additional information attached to his testimony indicated Martin Marietta had reason to believe iodine-129, neptunium-237, and thorium-232 were also being shipped off-site to various incinerators and landfills.” From: “Rachel’s Hazardous Waste News #282, April 22, 1992” Much more at link: http://www.ejnet.org/rachel/rhwn282.htm

Wikipedia “Shell Plant Explosion in Diamond Louisiana
Bibliography

Bazelon, Emily. “Bad Neighbors.” Legal Affairs: The Magazine at the Intersection of Law and Life May 2003: Web. 30 Nov. 2011.

“Concerned Citizens of Norco Reach Agreement with Shell Chemical.” Corpwatch: Holding Corporations Accountable. 20 June 2002. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. .

Lerner, Steve. “Diamond: A Struggle for Environmental Justice in Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor.” Crisis in American Institutions. Eds. Jerome H. Skolnick, and Elliott Currie. Print.

“Norco: Profile.” Louisiana Bucket Brigade: Clean Air. Justice. Sustainability. 18 Oct. 2002. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. .

Rosen, Ruth. “Toxic Terror.” Dissent MagazineCommonweal. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.

Wikipedia “References
“Concerned Citizens of Norco Reach Agreement with Shell Chemical.” Corpwatch: Holding Corporations Accountable. 20 June 2002. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. .
Rosen, Ruth. “Toxic Terror.” Dissent MagazineCommonweal. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.
Lerner, Steve. “Diamond: A Struggle for Environmental Justice in Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor.” Crisis in American Institutions. Eds. Jerome H. Skolnick, and Elliott Currie. Print.
Lerner, Steve. “Diamond: A Struggle for Environmental Justice in Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor.” Crisis in American Institutions. Eds. Jerome H. Skolnick, and Elliott Currie. Print.
“Norco: Profile.” Louisiana Bucket Brigade: Clean Air. Justice. Sustainability. 18 Oct. 2002. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. http://labucketbrigade.org/section.php?id=23
“Concerned Citizens of Norco Reach Agreement with Shell Chemical.” Corpwatch: Holding Corporations Accountable. 20 June 2002. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=2769
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shell_plant_explosion_in_Diamond,_Louisiana

NB: Bold added throughout for emphasis.