Bills that would completely replace the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board and potentially undermine its regulation authority are set to be heard by Albuquerque’s City Council on Wednesday, November 8th.
In response, a coalition of environmentalists and historic neighborhoods are sounding the alarm to the potential harm the changes could have on all of Bernalillo county’s residents.
Introduced by Dan Lewis of District 5 in Northwest Albuquerque, the bills would also do a number of other things – including a moratorium that would stop standard air quality regulation dead in its tracks until February 1, 2024.
Lewis said the current board represents “a narrow set of interests” and that it doesn’t operate within the laws of the state.
Historically, under the New Mexico Air Quality Control Act, the board advises the Mayor, the Environmental Health Department, the City Council and the County Commission on all air quality matters.
These proposals would inherently strip that power away and reclassify the board as an advisory committee only to the city council.
Marla Painter is a member of the Mountain View Coalition, an organization that has been fighting for tighter air quality control in Albuquerque for decades.
“So, the city council would be making decisions about air permits and appeals and take that out of the hands of these appointed members of the air board,” said Painter.
Painter said there’s some gray area in what the city council can and cannot do to a board involved in both county and municipal affairs.
In fact, some county commissioners plan to introduce a resolution requesting a deferral on the proposed amendments on Tuesday.
But Painter expects the proposals by Lewis to have majority support from the city council when it comes time for the vote.
“Anybody who cares about equity should care about this,” she said.
Several environmental organizations worry this move could prevent future protections from becoming a reality – like the Health, Environment and Equity Impacts (HEEI) regulation. That’s a proposal that would, if passed, require the Environmental Health Department to consider health and quality of life impacts when issuing air pollution permits.