Kirtland Jet Fuel Plans Need Independent Oversight

A Defense Department rule allows stronger community advisory input in decision making and scrutiny of the cleanup of the massive 24,000,000 gallon jet fuel spill at Kirtland Air Force Base. Unfortunately, there appears to be more boot dragging to prevent effective citizen involvement and oversight. 

U.S. Representative Lujan Grisham proposed (2013) a new independent and “substantive” citizens group that would have more say in the work being done [by Kirtland] to protect the city’s drinking water supplies stating that,  “They’re doing their work in a vacuum.” 

More than eight months ago about 100 persons submitted a petition to the Air Force requesting that a citizen remediation advisory board be formed.  The only other requirement to form the board was that there is “sufficient and sustained community interest.”

Now that citizens have complied with the rule, they were informed at the recent public meeting that Kirtland officials weren’t sure if there was enough “diversity” to form the advisory board.  However, the word diversity isn’t found anywhere in the rule as a requirement.

The community interest has been demonstrated time and again beginning in 2008 with public attendance, comments, and complaints at: meetings in community centers, neighborhood associations, Kirtland and Environment Department meetings held at the Cesar Chavez Community Center that became so large that they had to be moved to the African-American Center.

The rule recognizes “the importance of public involvement at military installations.”.  Importantly, there are provisions for training of citizen members, furnishing technical expertise, administrative funding and for citizen input on selecting members.

Kirtland had ample opportunity before the public meeting to send out forms for participation to the many people on its computerized service list that have attended meetings.  By failing to send to the larger list serve along with publishing the forms, Kirtland should not now claim that there weren’t enough sign-ups of people willing to participate on the advisory board.  Kirtland should still send out the forms and quit playing games.  Many other Air Force sites, such as Hill AFB, have these citizen boards.

There have been formal resolutions passed by the ABQ Water Authority and a NM State Legislature memorial regarding the fuel spill.  At a recent meeting to consider establishing the board, two state senator staff persons spoke encouragingly along with city councilman, Pat Davis, who gave strong support. The legislative Memorial asked for an independent review of the fuel spill. The Water Authority stated it would not allow any level of the toxic chemical Ethylene Dibromide to be in drinking water.      

The fact that the Air Force has already spent $100,000,000 on the jet fuel spill calls for independent scientific and fiscal review beginning with the community’s right to take a close look at planning, how much protection we are getting, and recommending what can further be done.  We owe independent oversight for the jet fuel cleanup to a future generation of water users. 


Dave McCoy, Director

Citizen Action NM

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