July 10, 2019

AUDIO: Udall Speaks Out Against Trump Threat to Veto Defense Bill, Imperil New Mexico Farmers Ruined by PFAS Pollution

Trump admin. threatens to veto National Defense Authorization Act due to objections to provisions championed by NM delegation to provide relief from DOD PFAS contamination

Udall was joined by a New Mexico dairy farmer whose livelihood has been threatened by PFAS contamination near Cannon Air Force Base

AUDIO: Udall Speaks Out Against Trump Threat to Veto Defense Bill, Imperil New Mexico Farmers Ruined by PFAS Pollution

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) spoke out against the Trump administration’s recent threat to veto the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) if the bill includes provisions championed by the New Mexico delegation that would provide much-needed relief to communities and businesses hurt by PFAS contamination. In New Mexico, the U.S. Air Force has confirmed that firefighting foam containing dangerous PFAS chemicals used around Cannon Air Force Base and Holloman Air Force Base has contaminated nearby groundwater, endangering public health, devastating a major local dairy and threatening a regional industry.

In a press conference call earlier today, Udall blasted the Trump administration’s threat to veto the annual defense policy bill. In explaining its threat to veto the bill, the administration specifically cited its opposition to a measure championed by the NM Delegation that authorizes the Department of Defense (DOD) to treat contaminated water or provide farmers with alternative water supplies. Today, Udall vowed to keep fighting to ensure the federal government addresses the environmental and public health emergency caused by PFAS contamination. 

Udall was joined by Art Schaap, a New Mexico dairy owner whose farm has been ruined by PFAS pollution after he was forced to dump thousands of gallons of milk, lay off employees, and prepare to euthanize his cows. Udall has been fighting alongside the New Mexico delegation to make sure that communities and dairy farmers like Schaap who have been hurt by the PFAS emergency are made whole, including championing the NDAA amendment to ensure that the DOD can help agricultural producers facing contamination. 

“[President Trump] is threatening to veto the national defense bill -- because it tries too hard to clean up Department of Defense toxic waste that is imperiling America’s drinking water and farmers’ businesses and way of life,” said Udall. “There is no end to the hypocrisy.  And no end to the endangerment of Americans’ health and safety from this Administration. The livelihoods of dairy farmers in New Mexico -- like Art Schaap -- have been threatened or even ruined by toxins from the neighboring air force base.  And this administration will do nothing.” 

“This measure has broad bipartisan support. And it should. We should want to reimburse our farmers for harm done to their livelihoods by the federal government. But now the president threatens a veto,” continued Udall. “These are the true colors of the Trump administration: Talk big about your support for the environment, for farmers, for rural America. Then threaten to veto anything that actually helps them, relief they deserve and makes them whole. If this president vetoes the defense bill because it provides relief for farmers, then Congress must stand up to this president and override his veto.” 

This year, Udall, along with Senator Martin Heinrich and Representatives Ben Ray Luján, Deb Haaland, and Xochitl Torres Small introduced the PFAS Damages Act to provide relief to communities and businesses affected by PFAS contamination in groundwater around Air Force bases in New Mexico and across the country. The bill was included in the Senate version of the NDAA by an amendment from Heinrich during committee consideration, while Torres Small worked to include a portion of the bill in the House version of the NDAA. 

The measure would ensure that DOD takes precautionary action to prevent human exposure, including through agricultural products, provide alternative water or water treatment for contaminated agricultural water, and acquire contiguous property that is contaminated.  The Act would also mandate that the Department of Defense (DOD) create a plan of action to clean up contaminated sites and take all necessary steps to prevent further risks to public health.