WASHINGTON (KAMR/KCIT) — Congress is working to include environmental protection and relief for agricultural producers in its defense spending bill for 2020, but President Trump is threatening to veto the entire bill if it keeps those sections.
As more harmful PFAS chemical contamination is found near military installations across the country, Congress is putting pressure on the Trump Administration to take care of those affected, including a dairy farmer near Clovis.
Art Schaap owns Highland Dairy near Clovis. He said his livelihood has been ruined by harmful PFAS chemicals which seeped into his groundwater from Cannon Air Force Base.
Click here to see how the U.S. Air Force is handling PFAS contamination on and near air bases.
“I have been dealing with this problem now for 10 months. It’s affecting my family and our health,” said Schaap.
Schaap said he is dumping his milk and cannot sell his cows or dairy products. He also said it would cost him millions to clean up his dairy alone.
The defense bill has two items which would help him but now they are on the chopping block.
“The National Defense Authorization Act provides relief to farmers like Art, but the president threatens to veto the defense bill that will give a well-earned pay raise for our troops,” said New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall.
The bill would require the Department of Defense to replace the legacy firefighting foam which caused water contamination across the country by 2025.
It would also give the DOD authority to clean up contaminated water and provide water replacement and Sen. Udall said, reimburse farmers.
“But how are New Mexico farmers repaid? With a veto threat from the president who bragged this week about his environmental record,” said Sen. Udall.
The Trump Administration released a statement saying it opposes both provisions and would veto the bill as is. It reads:
“Replacement of Fluorinated Aqueous Film-forming Foam with Fluorine-free Fire-fighting Agent (Section 318). The Administration strongly objects to this provision, which prohibits DOD from using fluorinated fire-fighting foam before a viable equivalent replacement has been identified. DOD continues to pursue aggressively a fluorine-free foam, which must be equivalent in fire-fighting performance and workforce safety as the military specifications. DOD has concerns, however, about meeting the 2025 military specification deadline and the feasibility of waiver requirements.
Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) Used on Military Installations (Section 323). The Administration strongly objects to this provision, which would provide authority to DOD to treat water sources or provide replacement water for agricultural purposes where the water source is “contaminated” with PFOA and PFOS from military activities. Using the EPA drinking water health advisory (HA) to identify areas subject to this section of the bill would be inconsistent with the scientific basis of the HA—it was not constructed to determine unhealthy levels of PFOA/PFOS in water used for agricultural purposes or human 6 health effects from consumption of foods produced using agricultural water containing PFOA/PFOS. Additionally, at potentially great cost to and significant impact on DOD’s mission, the legislation singles out DOD, only one contributor to this national issue.“
“They are claiming in that statement that the Department of Defense and the Air Force is a small part of the problem. This is flat-out wrong,” said Sen. Udall.
“There’s no question that the DOD has shirked its responsibilities to clean up the legacy contamination that DOD is responsible for. Across the country, DOD is refusing to clean up contaminated sites and simply not treating our military families and neighbors of military installations with the respect they deserve,” Vice President of Government Affairs for the Environmental Working Group, Scott Faber said.
Sen. Udall said he believes if President Trump does decide to veto the defense spending bill, they will override the veto. He said he expects the House to pass its version with these provisions as amendments.
Faber said the next steps are naming PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Superfund statute and creating enforcement for how much PFAS can be in drinking and groundwater. Both charges would need to be led by the EPA should President Trump veto this bill.
We did reach out to ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Mac Thornberry for comment. He was on the House floor debating the defense bill.