Next for New Mexico’s Democratic Agenda

By V.B Price

Excerpted from Mercury Messenger, Nov. 14, 2022

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Many of us were worried that the Republican Party, in which former president Trump had unleashed the furies of bigotry, fanaticism, science denial and systemic deceit would regain a semblance of power here this year. And we had got to thinking about what it would be like to have an avowed Trumpian in the Roundhouse, with all the former president’s preposterously odious associations — not the least of which is with the vile insidiousness of antisemitism.

Such a chilling possibility, combined with the GOP’s vicious attack on women’s right to choose, its avowed hostility to social security and Medicare, its blatant efforts to overturn legitimate election results, and its long hatred of environmentalism turned anticipation of the midterm elections into a political trauma unusually fierce even in our tumultuous lifetimes.
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Clean ground water is what Democratic constituents want. It’s time for the people we elect to pay attention.

We need to spend the funds it takes to find out exactly how dirty our groundwater is. We need a massive information campaign to gain support for seeking ways and funds to clean it up. And it we need it fast. No one knows how long this drought is going to last. And even if it actually lifts for a while, it seems a certainty that deepening aridity is the condition all Southwesterners will have to learn to live with, thanks to conservative climate change deniers and their anti-science propaganda.

We know already that most, if not all, military bases have groundwater pollution of some kind, especially Air Force bases. We know the three Air Force bases in New Mexico — Cannon in Curry County, Holloman in Otero County and Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque — do, too. And the airplane storage site at what used to be Walker Air Force base in Roswell has its groundwater issues as well. It’s believed that Kirtland, in fact, has the greatest spill of jet fuel in the country at some 24 million gallons. It’s right in the sweet spot of the city’s aquifer. We know that groundwater pollution is extremely dangerous for young children living nearby. Environmental conditions like groundwater pollution are increasingly blamed for the growing epidemic of non-communicable childhood diseases, including a wide range of birth defects, developmental disabilities and cancers.

We know that fracking for oil and gas not only uses vast amounts of water but pollutes it as well, and spreads the pollution around the countryside. We know that Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Labs have long histories of cavalier attitudes toward safely storing hazardous nuclear waste. Despite many well-documented accusations of being an endangerment to public health, neither lab has ever thoroughly cleaned up its legacy of radioactive waste. We know pollution is so bad at Los Alamos and surrounding canyons that plutonium traces have appeared in the drinking water in Santa Fe and had to be reported in city water bills. We know that underground gasoline storage tanks are often allowed to go uninspected and pollute groundwater all over the state. We know the generalities but we still haven’t spent the money to know the exact specifics needed to start the seemingly endless process of remediation.

We also know that conservative and often Trump-supporting corporate America and the military have invested immense amounts of money in a decades-long misinformation campaign designed to downplay the dangers of pollution and take the pressure off them to clean up their mess.

The time is now for environmental Democrats to put their re-election worries on the shelf and become, as Gov. Lujan Grisham says, “relentless” in the pursuit of clean groundwater in this time of potentially catastrophic drought.