NEW ORLEANS — U.S. Sen. David Vitter and U.S. Rep. John Fleming are indignant about what Fleming calls extortion by the Environmental Protection Agency in connection with the cleanup of 7,800 tons of potentially explosive materials at Camp Minden.
Louisiana has paid EPA $1.2 million to oversee the cleanup, but the agency is asking for an estimated $8 million more, Fleming said in a news release Thursday. Vitter said the amount is unknown.
Both said EPA is delaying a contract and endangering people.
“It is extortion from an agency whose budget this year is $8.1 billion,” Fleming said.
EPA is trying to provide the review, monitoring and information that it’s been asked for, spokesman David Gray said.
“EPA has been working with the state and community to dispose of the materials at Camp Minden,” he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “Throughout this effort, everyone asked that EPA provide independent review and monitoring of the disposal and ensure information is provided to the public. Our goal has been to provide that service which we believe is necessary to verify operations are protective.”
State police found 7,800 tons of M6 artillery propellant and 160 tons of clean-burning igniters — much of it in the open or otherwise improperly stored — after an explosion in 2012. It’s been stored more safely. But the Army says the older it gets, the greater the danger of spontaneous explosion.
The EPA said at first that burning the material in shallow trays was the only way to get rid of it quickly enough. Community outrage prompted a decision that other methods could be considered, and on May 8 the agency approved a plan for Explosive Service International of Baton Rouge to incinerate the material.
“This explosive material is getting more dangerous the longer it’s neglected. But EPA is deliberately dragging its feet,” Vitter said. “We’re extremely close to getting this resolved once and for all. The EPA needs to do its job and get this cleanup process going. Claiming to now have additional oversight costs is unacceptable — and the health and safety of the nearby residents can absolutely not be jeopardized by an EPA money grab.”