WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 14, 2019) – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) questioned Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan in a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the impact of President Trump’s national emergency declaration on military construction projects and the Pentagon’s response to PFAS contamination at New Mexico military installations.
During the hearing, Senator Heinrich received confirmation that previously appropriated funding for military construction projects could be jeopardized by President Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a border wall. He raised serious concern about this inappropriate abuse of power and the long-term consequences of not taking action.
Heinrich has previously introduced legislation to prevent the president from utilizing the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to raid critical military construction and disaster response funds to construct his wall along the southern border.
Senator Heinrich also sought answers from Acting Secretary Shanahan on how the Pentagon is handling response to the discovery of contamination of groundwater near New Mexico’s Cannon and Holloman Air Force Bases. Last year, the U.S. Air Force confirmed that firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals (PFOA and PFOS) used around Cannon Air Force Base and Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico contaminated nearby groundwater. Senator Heinrich stressed the toll this is taking on nearby communities, highlighting that the contamination has forced Highland Dairy Farm in Clovis, New Mexico to close after 25 years. The extent of damage from contamination at Holloman is still being assessed.
Last week, Heinrich introduced a bill along with U.S. Senator Tom Udall and U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján to provide relief to communities and businesses impacted by PFAS contamination in groundwater around Air Force bases in New Mexico and across the country. He has urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) to coordinate closely with the State of New Mexico to move forward with remediation plans to clean up contaminated sites and take all necessary steps to prevent further risks to public health.
A list of witnesses and testimony, and the archived webcast of today's hearing will be available here.