The Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board rejected an initiative to require extensive pollution monitoring in areas where businesses are seeking air-quality permits to operate at a packed, roughly five-hour meeting Wednesday night.
In a 6-1 vote, board members voted not to schedule a public hearing on the petition by the SouthWest Organizing Project to require a year of air quality monitoring before a business got its air quality permit. Only certain types of businesses need permits to operate.
“The communities that work with us came to the board with a solution to issues about air quality in their neighborhoods,” said Juan Reynosa, a field organizer at SWOP who was involved in the petition effort.
“We met with a lot of opposition,” he said. “The majority of the Air Quality Control Board members last night recognized the need in these communities but passed the buck.”
A community and environmental advocacy group, SWOP is currently considering its next step after Wednesday’s denial. Reynosa said the proponents of the petition, which is a legal-style document outlining the monitoring proposal, had hoped for a hearing to serve as a forum for debate on the monitoring.
SWOP’s monitoring proposal is based on a link between air pollution and poor health. A premise is that industries with air emissions, such as makers of construction material, tend to locate near low-income or minority neighborhoods, contributing to health problems among residents.
The Association of Commerce and Industry, a business advocacy group, argued against SWOP’s proposal both in a document filed with the board and at Wednesday’s hearing. ACI’s challenged the monitoring proposal on grounds ranging from its legality under existing laws to its potential to drive business out of Albuquerque and Bernalillo.