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Articles by Jake Bittle

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NORCO, LOUISIANA — More than 72 hours after Hurricane Ida made landfall, plumes of dark black smoke were still rising from four towers at the Shell plant in Norco, Louisiana. Enormous flames billowed out of these towers in the heart of the petrochemical region known as “Cancer Alley,” and a thick smudge of smoke floated across the sky away from the plant. 

The refinery has a history of significant flaring and compliance issues. In the last few years, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency have fined it for flaring more than allowed — and the facility has run into trouble with state authorities for failing to prevent emissions of sulfur dioxide and other toxic chemicals.

At least as of Thursday, it remained unclear when the flaring — where plants release gases into the air, often to relieve pressure and ensure safety — would stop.

“As a result of impacts related to Hurricane Ida, Shell’s Norco Manufacturing site is without electrical power,” said Cindy Babski, a spokesperson for Shell. “While the site remains safe and secure, we are experiencing elevated flaring. We expect this to continue until power is restored... Read more

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