Truly baffling

Dear Friend,

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I fought hard to secure provisions in this year's defense bill to provide help to those who have been impacted by contamination from perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in firefighting foams used at military bases like Cannon and Holloman Air Force Bases in New Mexico. In a truly baffling move, President Trump has singled out those very provisions as one reason he may refuse to sign the defense bill, which supports all of our military installations and personnel.

I hope you can take a moment to read and share an op-ed I wrote in yesterday's Eastern New Mexico News about why we need to hold the Department of Defense accountable for cleaning up after itself. I remain firmly committed to providing our armed services with all the tools and resources they need to defend our nation and to protecting the public health of businesses and military communities in Clovis and Alamogordo.

Sincerely,

MARTIN HEINRICH

United States Senator


By U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich
July 14, 2019
 
Last year, the U.S. Air Force confirmed that firefighting foam containing toxic PFAS chemicals used around Cannon and Holloman Air Force Bases in New Mexico had contaminated nearby groundwater supplies.
The contamination at Cannon affects several nearby agricultural wells, creating major disruptions for local dairy farmers.

One dairy producer had to lay off 40 employees and quarantine 4,000 cows. His family business will never be recovered.

It's clear that we urgently need to clean up this toxic mess and protect the health and safety of impacted communities and businesses. That's why I was stunned to learn that President Trump is threatening to veto the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) over language requiring the Air Force to assist communities affected by PFAS contamination.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I fought hard to include amendments to this year's NDAA to require the cooperative efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense to quickly remedy contaminated sites like those at Cannon and prevent further risks to public health.

We know that this contamination was caused by the U.S. Air Force, but the Air Force has not yet addressed immediate needs for water filtration or long-term remediation. My amendment authorizes those much-needed actions.

Recent scientific studies link these unregulated contaminants to a number of serious adverse health effects. This threatens our military communities, families, and neighboring businesses. That is why I also made sure that funding will continue to support the ongoing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention human health study on PFAS in drinking water.

It is truly baffling that President Trump would threaten to hold up the entire defense bill to stop this much-needed action to protect New Mexico's dairy farmers, our service members, and military communities.

It's bad enough that the president opposes protecting our military communities from PFAS. But if he were to take down the annual defense bill, it would mean also sacrificing many other major gains I've fought hard to provide our men and women in uniform. The defense bill supports the national security missions and infrastructure investments at all of New Mexico's military bases, national defense labs, and test ranges. As part of that process, I strive to make sure our missions are well funded and aimed at having an enduring presence in New Mexico to help meet the national security needs of the future.

This year's bill also included a 3.5 percent pay increase for military members and a major amendment that I authored to address widespread unsafe and unsanitary conditions that have been found in on-base military housing. My amendment establishes a uniform code of basic military housing standards and requires inspections to ensure compliance.

My amendment in the defense bill is a critical step in ensuring our military and their families live in the healthy homes they deserve.

That is what President Trump is threatening to veto. I can't understand it.

I am firmly committed to ensuring that our military has the tools and resources it needs to keep our nation safe. I also strongly believe that the Department of Defense has a responsibility to clean up after itself and an obligation to protect the public health of military communities like Clovis.