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House strikes down one-year extension on funds for proposed Cape Cod machine gun range

Spc. Jasmine Meneide fires the M2A1 .50 caliber machine gun for the first time. “The only reason why I was very nervous and more so in my head is because of safety,” she said. “I want to make sure that I’m in the correct position, no one else is going to get hurt.”
Elodie Reed
Spc. Jasmine Meneide fires the M2A1 .50 caliber machine gun at a range in Vermont. The Massachusetts Army National Guard is seeking to build a range big enough to accommodate training on the .50 caliber weapon at Joint Base Cape Cod. The EPA has cited concerns over health risks from potential contamination of the sole-source aquifer, which provides drinking water to towns on the Upper Cape.

The House Armed Services Committee struck language out of the 2025 National Defense Authorization Act that would extended funding authorization for a proposed machine gun range on Joint Base Cape Cod.

The Massachusetts Army National Guard had until September 30, 2024, to spend $9.7 million on construction. But the project has yet to receive final approval from state officials, so the Guard sought to extend the funding by one year, until September 30th, 2025.

Now, if the Senate follows the House’s lead, the funds will expire in just over four months.

A spokesperson for the Guard did not offer comment.

Congressman Bill Keating, a Democrat whose district includes Cape Cod, the South Coast, and Islands, spearheaded the effort to block extending the funds, after his office was reportedly flooded with more than 700 emails from constituents.

Opponents point out the proposed gun range is still undergoing review by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which, in a draft report, found that the project could contaminate the region’s drinking water.

Keating’s office released a statement on Thursday evening.

“The hundreds of thousands of Cape Codders who rely on our aquifer deserve a completed Sole Source Aquifer Review, and as such we must allow the EPA to complete their work with the Guard, finalize their review, and issue a final determination before this project takes additional steps toward construction. While I had hoped to put forward an amendment that would require the completion of the EPA’s review as a condition of extending the authorization, it was made clear by the majority party that such an amendment would not be allowed.

My position since the EPA first announced the review of the project in 2021 has been that a final determination must be made before the project moves forward, and I felt that it was not acceptable to extend the authorization without provisions regarding the EPA review, especially in light of EPA’s draft determination in 2023 that provisionally concluded that the proposed range may contaminate the aquifer. So, with no viable legislative alternative, I introduced and passed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2025 National Defense Authorization Act yesterday that prevented an extension of authority for the construction of the machine gun range from the House version of the bill.”

Meanwhile, the 2025 NDAA did extend the funding for a machine gun range at Fort Devens — a range that local environmentalists say should eliminate the need for a range on Cape Cod.

“Congressman Keating has really done us a service by having this language stricken,” said Barnstable County Commissioner Mark Forest.

Andrew Gottlieb, executive director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod (APCC), has proven to be a vocal and effective opponent of the range; he offered “thanks and appreciation” to Keating in a statement.

“APCC now looks to the senate and Senators Warren and Markey to ensure that the senate follows suit with the policy direction charted in the House,” Gottlieb wrote.

“We’re still not out of the woods,” Forest said.

Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.