February 24, 2016 For immediate release
Contact: Anne Rolfes, Founding Director, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, (504) 452-4909
Virali Modi-Parekh, Rainforest Action Network, (510) 747-8476
Environmental Justice Hero and Goldman Prize Recipient Margie Richard to Join
March 23rd Gulf Drilling Lease Action at New Orleans Superdome
Local residents and citizens across the country plan to Surround the Superdome to stop tens of millions of acres of public waters from being auctioned off to fossil fuel giants
(New Orleans) Environmental justice hero Margie Richard will join the historic Surround the Superdome event on March 23, adding her voice to the growing grassroots movement to Keep it in the Ground on America’s public lands and waters. In an unprecedented moment in Louisiana’s history, Richard will be joining a growing swell of people from the region and from national environmental organizations to demand an end to new oil drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico and the hiring of at least 1,000 workers to improve health and safety.
The lease sale and demonstration will be taking place at the iconic New Orleans Superdome, an emotionally charged symbol for the U.S. climate movement still remembered as a place of last resort for climate refugees fleeing Katrina over 10 years ago.
Margie Richard is best known for leading the front-line of a long, hard-won battle to hold Shell accountable for the devastating health problems in her community of Norco, Louisiana. She secured agreement from Shell Chemical to reduce its toxic emissions by 30 percent, contribute $5 million to a community development fund, and finance relocation of her Old Diamond neighbors in Louisiana. For her decade-long campaign and victory in seeking justice from Shell, Richard was awarded a prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.
“If we don’t take care of planet earth – if we destroy the earth — we are destroying humanity also. We don’t need to use this oil. We need to preserve our foundation, not destroy it,” Richard said. “We’re too intelligent to let this happen.”
Leading the March 23rd action are parents and children impacted by oil refinery pollution, communities devastated by oil spills, workers subject to boom-bust oil jobs, fishermen and oystermen whose livelihoods have been damaged by the oil industry, and many more. Gulf residents plan to surround the Superdome during the auction to take a stand against the scheduled sale inside. They are being supported by Rainforest Action Network, Center for Biological Diversity, 350.org, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and other national environmental groups.
The call for at least 1,000 new jobs is a call to improve the safety of aging oil operations and to protect coastal communities from further destruction. There continues to be corroded infrastructure that threatens the health and safety of workers and surrounding communities in the Gulf, as well as abandoned wells and coastal pollution that require remediation and continued cleanup. While the oil industry is laying off workers due to lower oil prices, the industry should be hiring workers to prevent thousands of accidents every year and to better safeguard people and ecosystems.
With this action, the Gulf of Mexico region is joining the global movement for a phase out of fossil fuels and a push to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The public demonstrations at the climate talks in Paris sent a clear message that ordinary people are leading the movement to end use of fossil fuels and transition to clean energy. Over the last few months, people across the country have held similar protests in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Washington D.C. The next front for the movement is New Orleans, to ensure that Gulf fossil fuels – the eighth largest carbon reserve in the world – is kept in the ground, and to demand a new lease on life for Gulf communities.