SHREVEPORT — “We refuse to be left out of the process.”
That is the message the Concerned Citizens of the Camp Minden M6 Open Burn, via Louisiana Progress Action, released in a letter during a press conference Monday in Shreveport.
The letter is addressed to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, EPA Region 6 Administrator Ron Curry, EPA Region 6 Superfund Division Director Carl Edlund, Gov. Bobby Jindal, Louisiana DEQ Secretary Peggy Hatch, Louisiana National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis, Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh and Craig R. Schnauder, deputy general counsel, installations, environmental and civil works, Department of the Army.
Frances Kelley, director of organizing for Louisiana Progress Action, said a meeting is expected to take place this week among leaders from the U.S. Army and the Louisiana agencies. The letter expressed refusal to be excluded from this particular meeting.
“The EPA, the Army, and the State of Louisiana will not treat the citizens of north Louisiana any differently than any other community in any other state would be treated,” Kelley said.
The purpose of the meeting, according to Hatch’s letter to McCarthy dated Jan. 22, is “to allow the federal government to demonstrate why it chose the open tray method for disposal of munitions at Camp Minden.”
“Since the EPA has not followed its own guidelines that mandate community involvement at each step in the decision process, the people who will be most affected by your decisions have not been a part of the remedy selection process, nor were we invited to participate in this meeting,” she states in the letter. “However, we refuse to be excluded from these key decisions that will affect us so profoundly. We are the ones whose health and safety will be affected and whose community could suffer economic consequences from an unsafe disposal method.”
Within 20 minutes of the release of the letter to the public, the EPA responded, saying they would not participate in a meeting without the public’s input.
“I heard about the press conference today,” David Gray, with EPA Region 6, said in an email to the Press-Herald Monday, “The EPA has not agreed to the meeting suggested by the LDEQ’s Jan. 22 letter. We believe the local officials and community should be involved in the process and are continuing to work to make that happen.”
Kelley and Dr. Brian Salvatore, a chemistry professor at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, both said any meeting that takes place should happen in north Louisiana.
“They haven’t invited any members of the public, or representatives of the public,” Salvatore said. “We think this meeting will be in south Louisiana, but we don’t know for sure. We’d like this meeting to be held in north Louisiana – in Minden, in Shreveport. It would be best if it were in Minden, where it’s closest to the people.”
In the open letter, Kelley states: “We request that a dialogue committee be formed, as has been done in other communities, that would give citizens a seat at the table. Furthermore, the EPA, the Army and the State of Louisiana must agree to the following:
n Hold the meeting referred to in the Jan. 22 letter and any other meetings where decisions are being made about Camp Minden in north Louisiana,
n Such meeting must be open to the public,
nSubject matter experts from the EPA who disagree with the open burn must be present as well,
n Local elected officials must be allowed to attend these meetings, and
n The media must be allowed to attend these meetings to ensure complete transparency.
There are other concerns that have not been answered, Salvatore said, such as the fact that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office seems to be mum on the issue as well as the fact that a “state of emergency” is still being renewed reportedly without talking to anyone.
“We raised the point that there is an ongoing state of emergency there,” Salvatore said. “This has to be more than just an emergency in name only. It is a real emergency. We have not heard anything from the governor’s office, yet he continues to renew this state of emergency without calling anybody, even his homeland security personnel in this region of the state.
“By inviting the EPA and inviting the Army but not inviting us – that’s not transparency,” he continued. “The government should be onsite more than anybody, but we’re not hearing anything.”
Hatch requested data and information on the open burn tray method and have it in hand by Wednesday.
“Because the EPA has been unable to provide this information and articulates the basis of decision to the public, the State of Louisiana demands the opportunity to review this information in its entirety,” she said.
Kelley said representatives from the Baton Rouge office of Louisiana Progress Action were going to try to meet with Hatch Monday to get some of the other concerns addressed, but she has not heard anything as of press time.