Guv accuses EPA of neglecting duties in PFAS contamination inaction

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham criticized the EPA for its refusal to join the state’s lawsuit against the Air Force for PFAS contamination at two bases in the state. PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are toxic, human-manufactured chemicals that move through groundwater and biological systems. Human exposure to PFAS increases the risk of testicular, kidney and thyroid cancers as well as other severe illnesses. The chemicals were used in firefighting foam in military bases across the country, including at Cannon and Holloman Air Force Bases, until 2016. The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) found “significant amounts of PFAS” in the groundwater, under both bases. The Air Force has since discontinued the use of the chemicals.

State presses Air Force to take action on PFAS contamination

The state of New Mexico wants a federal court to compel the Air Force to address contamination at two U.S. Air Force bases. The contamination comes from PFAS, a class of chemicals that came from the use of a since-discontinued firefighting foam at Cannon and Holloman Air Force Bases. Areas of contamination span throughout the country with hundreds of confirmed locations across 43 states, largely from places like military bases. See all of NM Political Report’s coverage on PFAS contamination

The state filed a preliminary injunction to get the Air Force to regularly test groundwater and surface water testing, to provide alternate water sources for those affected and provide voluntary blood tests for those who may have been exposed to the toxic chemicals. The injunction was filed by the Attorney General and the New Mexico Environment Department.

Groundwater contamination devastates a New Mexico dairy – and threatens public health

For
months, Clovis dairy farmer Art Schaap has been watching his life go
down the drain. Instead of selling milk, he is dumping 15,000 gallons
a day – enough to provide a carton at lunch to 240,000 children. Instead of working 24/7 to keep his animals healthy, he’s planning
to exterminate all 4,000 of his cows, one of the best herds in Curry
County’s booming dairy industry. The 54-year-old second-generation dairy farmer learned last August that his water, his land, his crops – even the blood in his body – were contaminated with chemicals that migrated to his property from nearby Cannon Air Force Base. See all of NM Political Report’s coverage on PFAS contamination.

Will Texas massacre finally get military to improve its criminal reporting system?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had an urgent question Monday about Devin Patrick Kelley, the former U.S. Air Force airman who is accused of killing 26 people worshipping at a church service yesterday: How was it that Kelley, convicted of domestic violence and discharged for bad conduct, was still able to get a gun?”

By late afternoon, Abbott appeared to have his answer: the Air Force said an initial review indicated it had failed to share Kelley’s criminal record with the civilian authorities, and so his conviction was never entered into the federal database used to screen potentially dangerous gun buyers. Federal laws bar felons and those convicted of domestic violence from obtaining guns. This story originally appeared at ProPublica and is reprinted with permission. The Air Force said it will conduct a full review of how it handled Kelley’s records, as well as all “relevant policies and procedures.”

However, the Air Force and the military’s other armed services have known for years there were widespread problems with their reporting procedures. A 2015 Pentagon report found the military was failing to provide crucial information to the FBI in about 30 percent of a sample of serious cases handled in military courts.

How military outsourcing turned toxic

IN AUGUST 2016, an inspector from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency arrived at Barksdale Air Force base in Louisiana, a nerve center for the U.S. military’s global air combat operations, to conduct a routine look at the base’s handling of its hazardous waste. Barksdale, like many military bases, generates large volumes of hazardous materials, including thousands of pounds of toxic powder left over from cleaning, painting and maintaining airplanes. For years, Barksdale had been sending a portion of its waste to an Ohio company, U.S. Technology Corp., that had sold officials at the base on a seemingly ingenious solution for disposing of it: The company would take the contaminated powder from refurbished war planes and repurpose it into cinderblocks that would be used to build everything from schools to hotels to big-box department stores — even a pregnancy support center in Ohio. The deal would ostensibly shield the Air Force from the liabililty of being a large producer of dangerous hazardous trash. The arrangement was not unique.

Wilson confirmed as Air Force secretary

Former congresswoman Heather Wilson was confirmed as President Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Air Force Monday. The Senate voted 76-22 to confirm Wilson, who is the first service secretary nominee to get approval from the Senate, according to the Associated Press. Both of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators—Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich—voted to confirm Wilson. Heinrich, who faced Wilson in 2012 as an opponent for his current Senate seat, voted to advance her nomination to the full Senate as part of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Udall served in the U.S. House at the same time as Wilson.

Wilson nomination hearing set for Thursday

Former New Mexico congresswoman Heather Wilson will have to divest herself of her and her husband’s stocks in defense contractors if she becomes Secretary of the Air Force. This came from financial disclosures that the Republican, now president of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, filed ahead of her nomination hearing. The Senate Armed Forces Committee will question Wilson on Thursday. If Wilson clears the committee, which is likely, her nomination will go to the full Senate. Among the stocks Wilson disclosed were those for Raytheon, Honeywell International, Intel and Verizon Communications.

Trump to nominate Heather Wilson for Secretary of the Air Force

President Donald Trump announced he will nominate Heather Wilson to join his administration as Secretary of the Air Force. Wilson is a former congresswoman from New Mexico, representing the Albuquerque area. She is currently the President of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Perhaps more relevant to her nomination, she graduated from the Air Force Academy and served as an Air Force officer in Europe. According to Trump’s administration, Wilson would be the first Air Force Academy graduate to serve as as Secretary of the Air Force.

Air Force faces suit over jet fuel spill

Residents of New Mexico announced their intention to sue the U.S. Air Force over the massive jet fuel spill at Kirtland Air Force Base. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center announced on Monday that the organization filed a notice of intent to sue the Air Force. Among those in the lawsuit are the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) and state senators Cisco McSorley and Mimi Stewart. Four other residents of New Mexico are clients. The notice of intent is required to give those who will be sued 90 days notice of the suit.