News Briefs – March 13, 2019


New Mexico: Military needs to do more to clean up jet fuel

The U.S. Air Force has excavated thousands of tons of soil and treated millions of gallons of water contaminated by jet fuel at a base bordering New Mexico’s largest city, but state regulators say the military still has more cleanup to do.
The New Mexico environment department, which monitors the cleanup’s progress, late last week released a draft of this year’s strategic plan for addressing the contamination at Kirtland Air Force Base.
The fuel leak — believed to have been seeping into the ground for decades — was detected in 1999. The greatest concern was potential contamination of drinking water wells in Albuquerque neighborhoods that border the base.
While state and military officials say drinking wells are now protected, community watchdogs argue that there are gaps in the data and are pushing for an independent review of the years-long, multimillion-dollar cleanup project.
“Much information has been administratively kept secret from the public to paint over serious technical problems about the jet fuel spill investigation and remediation efforts,” said Dave McCoy, whose group Citizen Action New Mexico has sued over the years to try to get documents released on the spill and cleanup.
McCoy and others said they have asked the state to establish a citizen advisory board and include details on the project’s budget and spending for the next year.
The state’s draft does not address any spending, but officials have scheduled three public meetings this year and are planning to put out a more comprehensive proposal on public involvement this summer. AP

China says two pilots killed in crash of navy jet

A Chinese navy fighter jet crashed during a training mission March 12 in the southern island province of Hainan, killing both pilots, the navy said.
The crash took place in Ledong county in the mountainous and heavily forested tropical province and the cause was under investigation, the navy said on its official Twitter-like Weibo microblog.
It said no casualties were reported on the ground. The report did not say what type of plane was involved or give other details.
Located in the South China Sea, Hainan has multiple military installations geared toward enforcing China’s claims over virtually the entire waterway. The claims are disputed by other regional governments and confrontations between their armed forces, and that of the United States, occasionally occur.
A collision between a U.S. Navy surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter in 2001 led to the U.S. aircraft making an emergency landing on Hainan. AP

Pentagon seeks base site to house 5,000 migrant children

The Defense Department is reviewing a number of military bases to find a location that can house up to 5,000 unaccompanied migrant children as the U.S. braces for a surge of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.
The Department of Health and Human Services submitted the request for space last week.
Tens of thousands of families cross the border illegally every month, and officials predict the problem will grow as the weather improves.
The Pentagon last summer approved the use of Goodfellow Air Force Base near San Anjelo, Texas, for an HHS request to accommodate up to 20,000 children. That space was never used.
Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, says since this request is smaller the department is doing another review. It’s unclear if they’ll use Goodfellow. AP

Leaders invite NATO secretary-general to address Congress

Leaders of both parties are inviting NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to address a joint meeting of Congress next month around the 70th anniversary of the trans-Atlantic alliance.
Congressional officials say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is inviting Stoltenberg with agreement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The bipartisan show of support for NATO comes after President Donald Trump has questioned U.S. support for the alliance. Trump has complained that other countries don’t pay their fair share to protect against threats, such as Russian aggression.
Each NATO country spends money on its own military capabilities in an effort to lessen dependence on the U.S. for defense. Stoltenberg has said that some NATO allies will spend an additional $100 billion by the end of 2020. AP