(San Francisco, CA) The prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for the
North American continent was awarded to the first time to an African
American woman for her struggle with the Shell corporation for environmental
justice for her Louisiana community and other communities living on the
fenceline the oil giants global facilities. Margie Eugene Richard of the
Diamond community of Norco, Louisiana, has won the 2004 Goldman Prize after
working for over 20 years to win a fair and just relocation of 300 families
living in the toxic shadow of a Shell chemical and refinery complex.
"This is a great victory for every community living along the fenceline of
toxic industrial facilities seeking respect and justice," said Margie Eugene
Richard, past president of the Concerned Citizens of Norco, Louisiana. "It
sends a message to other Shell neighbors in Port Arthur, Texas; Durban,
South Africa; Manila, the Philippines, Nigeria and elsewhere that they can
affirm their basic human rights."
Margie Eugene Richard and the Concerned Citizens of Norco, Louisiana, were
one of the first groups outside of California to use a community-based air
testing program, known as the bucket brigade, which was popularized by Denny
Larson, who now directs the Global Community Monitor (GCM). Larson
assisted Ms. Richard in taking the first test for Shell's toxic air
contaminants in the Diamond community on December 8, 1998, after the Shell
Chemical plant had two upsets resulting in widespread health complaints.
Shell claimed that no hazardous chemicals were released, but bucket air
tests showed one of the chemicals involved was present in the highest
concentrations of any tested for.
Ms. Richards and the Concerned Citizens of Norco continued to work with
Larson, the Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club and others to take air tests
over the next year to show high levels of chemicals were drifting from Shell
into their community. Eventually a new statewide group, the Louisiana
Bucket Brigade, was formed to assist the Concerned Citizens of Norco and
other groups in similar air testing efforts. GCM and its Refinery Reform
Campaign project have helped over 50 communities worldwide establish bucket
brigade air testing campaigns.
"It is an honor to be working with Margie and her community because they
have been a beacon for many other fenceline neighbors who simplywant
their human right to clean air," said Denny Larson, Director of GCM. "This
award will give hope to every other community organizing to win
environmental health and justice."
Ms. Richard and many other Shell neighborhood groups around the world have
joined an alliance to hold the oil giant accountable for toxic threats to
nearby communities. Ms. Richards and other fenceline neighbors became Shell
shareholders last year and traveled the annual shareholder meeting in London
with the help of Friends of the Earth (UK). The groups published their own
shareholder report and launched a website to hold Shell accountable to its
"green" principles at www.shellfacts.com. Ms. Richards and the global
alliance will publish an updated Shell shareholder report this year and
attend their June 28, 2004 annual meeting.
Many people and organizations came to the aid of Ms. Richards and the
Concerned Citizens of Norco during their decades long struggle to be moved
away from Shell's pollution including Wilma Subra (MacArthur Genius Award
Scientist), Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Damu Smith and the
African American Environmental Justice Network, Congresswoman Maxine Waters
and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Environmental Health
Fund, Maura Wood and the Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club, Monique Harden
and Natalie Walker of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, the
Community In-power and Development Association of Port Arthur, Texas, other
community groups in Cancer Alley, Greenpeace and environmental health
foundations led by Michael Lerner of Commonweal of Bolinas, California.