Minden Press-Herald

Oct 01st

Officials tout M6 powder disposal at D.C. conference

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For more than 35 years, chambers of commerce from this region have been making the trek to Washington D.C. to make their case to Louisiana's senators and congressman.

Not only did Jerri de Pingre' participate the last two years, but this year the president of the Minden-South Webster Chamber of Commerce shared local concerns for 16 million pounds of M6 propellant stored at Camp Minden.

"My goal was to make our delegation understand how critical it is that we get the funding to build an incinerator to take care of the propellant," de Pingre' said.

The title of de Pingre's presentation was "Go or Blow: The Demilitarization of M6 Propellant," which fell under the military category.

Before heading to D.C., de Pingre' said she talked with Camp Minden officials Col. Ron Stuckey and Col. John Hennigan.

"I wanted to make sure I was hitting all the high points," she said. "There are things that can't or won't happen at Camp Minden, unless we get the M6 cleaned up."

It is not only a safety issue, but it affects the economy, de Pingre' said.

"In December, Camp Minden was approached by another company, needing storage for munitions – a huge contract," she said. "But all the bunkers are still full of Explo's M6. So, that company walked away. We're losing business because we haven't been able to dispose of it."

Before boarding a plane, all chamber representatives are given a book with a schedule of events and the biography of the persons with whom they will meet while in Washington D.C.

"All of our appointments are lined up in advance," she said. "You get about 15 minutes with each one and that's all. You've got to give them your issue, tell them what you need, tell them why it's important and thank them for their time."

De Pingre' said some delegates from other areas of the region were unaware of the M6 propellant stored at Camp Minden.

"They were very interested," she said. "It was more of an educational thing for them. Down the road, they are more likely to support our delegation when the issue comes up for a vote.

We got a very good, positive response."

In March, the Environmental Protection Agency laid the responsibility of disposing the 16 million pounds of explosive powder remaining from defunct Explo Systems Inc., on the U.S. Army.

Taking the advice of Col. Carl Thompson (Ret.), a former Camp Minden official, de Pingre' concentrated her issue on funding for a device that would incinerate the propellant.

"They can spend $30 million and open air burn it, and we'll be smelling that stuff for the next three years," she said. "Or they can invest $10 million less than that and build the incinerator that will dispose of it safely. It's cleaner and it's better for the environment."

From Louisiana, de Pingre' was able to meet with Sen. David Vitter.

"Then we had dinner with John (Cong. Fleming). It's a more casual setting," she said."

For the first time, the group was scheduled to meet with Sen. Mary Landrieu's assistant, rather than the senator.

"While we were meeting with Donald Cravens, Landrieu's chief of staff – who was very interested in Camp Minden – Mary Landrieu joined us," de Pingre' said. "That night, some of us went to her house where she was having a reception for Jeye Johnson, the new head of Homeland Security."

De Pingre' said she was able to help the other delegates and their representatives understand the importance of safely disposing of the propellant and said how much she appreciated her board of directors giving her the opportunity to go to Washington and speak on behalf of the area.

The CC to DC event is sponsored by the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce. The Bossier Chamber of Commerce also participated from this region.






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