Focus on spill reeks of grandstanding

The Kirtland Air Force Base jet fuel spill is a big problem — a federal one the Air Force says it is addressing.

New Mexico’s junior congressional representative, Michelle Lujan Grisham, recently said the massive underground spill should be the delegation’s “No. 1 priority.” She is calling for more independent oversight and accountability of efforts to clean it up.

While the Air Force was tardy in accepting responsibility and accelerating cleanup efforts, it has shown serious commitment and action in recent years, including communicating more directly with stakeholders like the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority. Meanwhile, sentry wells show there is no immediate threat to the metro area’s drinking water. Thanks to prodding from the community and media efforts to keep the spill in the public eye, the delegation is more involved and the Air Force has ramped up remediation.

There is room for concern — and improvement. The fuel plume is migrating off base and approaching water authority drinking water wells. And the leak is huge — possibly as much as 24 million gallons.

A New Mexico Environment Department official has called the spill its top priority. It is regulating the cleanup, and the water authority and a citizens advisory board are keeping tabs on the progress.

While Lujan Grisham’s newfound concern is understandable, it’s a contradiction for her to say it should be the federal delegation’s top priority but oversight should remain with local authorities. Fact is, the spill is a federal problem caused by the U.S. Air Force. And the feds should make every effort, including ensuring adequate funding, to find ways to remove it and protect the area’s drinking water supplies for future generations.

For Lujan Grisham, with less than a year in office and no plan in hand, tagging the spill the top priority of a busy delegation comes off as grandstanding.

— Albuquerque Journal

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