New Mexico Officials Increase Pressure on EPA to Address PFAS Contamination

New Mexico Officials Increase Pressure on EPA to Address PFAS Contamination

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has accused the administration of failing to uphold the Environmental Protection Agency’s mission to protect public health and the environment after it refused to support a lawsuit against the Air Force over PFAS contamination at Cannon and Holloman Air Force Bases, Politico reported Tuesday.

Grisham’s charges were sent in a letter Friday to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler arguing that the agency’s refusal to join the lawsuit is a “demonstrative example of EPA’s failure to uphold compliance with federal environmental laws,” according to the report.

The letter, stemming from the recent lawsuit filed by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, has not prompted an immediate response from the EPA.  However, EPA General Counsel Matt Leopold and the chief of the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, Peter Wright, contended in a July letter to Balderas that the EPA doesn’t have legal authority to act against another department in the executive branch.

The dispute has since deepened prompting broader involvement from New Mexico authorities. On Aug. 2, New Mexico Environment Secretary James Kenney followed up with a separate state-issued letter contending the EPA has previously issued compliance orders forcing federal agencies to address contamination, the Politico report said.

Balderas initially filed New Mexico’s suit against the Air Force in March after groundwater tests near Cannon and Holloman detected PFAS concentrations in some locations at more than 300 times the EPA’s recommended safety limit.

Last month Balderas followed up filing for a preliminary injunction requiring the Air Force to provide alternative water sources to affected residents, as well as blood tests, and to immediately begin delineating the groundwater plumes, as On Base has reported.

New Mexico’s dispute with the EPA is centered on the PFAS class of chemicals, recognized by the EPA as cancer-linked substances.  The chemicals are used in a variety of nonstick products and firefighting foam relied on by the military and airports. PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the environment.

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