Carper Votes Against Ending Debate on the National Defense Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After working for weeks to find agreement to include provisions in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would address widespread PFAS contamination, and after some Congressional leaders failed to come to agreement, today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), 23-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Naval Reserves and top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, released the following statement after voting against closing debate on the NDAA.

“At this very moment, as my colleagues and I cast our votes deciding whether to end debate on our nation’s annual defense funding bill, we know that there are tens of thousands of servicemen and women living on or near military bases whose drinking water is contaminated with PFAS. We cast our votes knowing full well that there are almost 300 military sites across the country that have PFAS contamination in their water systems, including two in Delaware. And as the clerk counts our votes, and debate on the annual defense bill comes to a close, we know that hundreds of communities will continue to have no recourse to hold the Department of Defense accountable for the PFAS contamination it caused.

“Given what we know about the widespread contamination of these harmful chemicals in groundwater and drinking water systems, and the clear opportunity we still have to get something done, I cannot bring myself to vote ‘yes’ on ending the debate tonight.

“As a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserves, this decision is not one that I take lightly. I believe we have a sworn and solemn duty to protect the brave men and women who serve our country. I also believe that our men and women in uniform and the people who love them have sacrificed enough already, and we ought to do everything we can to ensure they have clean, safe drinking water.

“The ‘must-pass’ annual defense authorization bill was a clear opportunity for Congress to clean up widespread PFAS contamination. We had broad bipartisan agreement to designate PFOS and PFOA, two harmful PFAS chemicals, as hazardous substances, which would compel liable polluters—including the Department of Defense—to clean up the contamination they caused. We had broad bipartisan agreement to set a protective federal drinking water standard. But, despite that broad bipartisan agreement, we failed.

“Winston Churchill once said that, ‘success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.’ In this case, I am afraid that our failure could be fatal. Congress cannot wait any longer to act on PFAS contamination.

“Although I am disappointed in this outcome, I remain fully committed to getting these provisions across the finish line. Our work is not done and our fight is far from over.”