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Air quality permit for asphalt company considered

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Approval of Associated Asphalt and Material’s air quality permit will soon be in the hands of the state Environment Department.

But it could take more than three months before the department reaches a decision that would allow the company, located off N.M. 599 near the Santa Fe Regional Airport, to consolidate its operations. Hearing officer Gregory Chakalian has 30 days to file his report, which will then go to the department for review.

Associated Asphalt currently has two plants located on the Southside of Santa Fe. The company wants to move its plant on Oliver Road about half a mile north to another of its existing plants. If the consolidated permit is denied, the company will continue to operate at two separate plants.

Dozens attended the virtual hearing to give their thoughts on the company’s Santa Fe Southside plant consolidation — the vast majority of them opposing the permit. The hearing, which took place Monday and Tuesday, will continue Wednesday.

Earth Care, a nonprofit group that works to “empower young people to create healthy, just, and sustainable communities,” according to its website, and area residents represented by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, were among those who stood in opposition to the permit.

Dr. Lance Chilton, a retired pediatrician, said he treated many children with asthma and the pollution exposure can worsen the condition. He said the particle matter emitted by the pollution can build up in lungs and cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and that medical studies back that up.

“Those who use asphalt in paving and in roughing have a higher incidence of lung cancer and other cancers than control subjects who are not exposed in that way,” he said.

Matt Lane, environmental manager for Associated Asphalt, previously said that the consolidation of two plants would result in a 50% reduction in the concentrations of emissions that reach residential areas. He said the purpose of the move was simply to put the two plants together for efficiency’s sake.

During the hearing, Eric Jantz, attorney for the Environmental Law Center, suggested the Environment Department was improperly applying EPA regulations to issue permits for the consolidation.

Nearly everyone who gave public comment was opposed to the plant’s consolidation, some even stating that COVID-19 should be taken into account due to the unknowns surrounding pollution’s impact on recovering virus patients.

Southside residents said the plant’s consolidation would perpetuate “environmental racism,” a term suggesting that people of color are subjected to pollution and other risks at higher rates.