In June 2012, Pennsylvania officials flew to Louisiana to visit a couple of petrochemical plants owned by Shell, a company they were about to give big economic incentives to build a plant in Beaver County, Pa.
But they didn’t visit Margie Richard, who once lived in Norco, but now lives outside New Orleans.
If they had, they would have gotten another story about Shell’s operations here, a story about toxic emissions, industrial accidents, and how a very determined school teacher brought one of the largest companies in the world to the negotiating table.
Norco’s history is a window into the chemical industry’s sometimes rocky relationship with its host communities along the Mississippi River. And it may offer clues to how ‘fenceline’ communities near plants could manage their relationships with an industry that is expanding to take advantage of the natural gas boom.