Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

Small victories can mean a lot when you have endured a long history of environmental injustice and environmental racism in your community. Members of the Mountain View coalition and their attorneys from the New Mexico Environmental Law Center NMELC were elated when the City of Albuquerque’s Environmental Health Department (EHD) backed off its efforts to get three board members kicked off the Air Quality Control Board (AQCB) for bias. EDH recently withdrew four motions on July 10, just ahead of a scheduled hearing set for July 14 during the monthly Air Quality Control Board meeting, to disqualify board members from a case against a hot mix asphalt batch plant proposed by New Mexico Terminal Services (NMTS). The hearing on the recusal motions has been canceled and is no longer on the agenda.

“The board’s job is to prevent and clean up air pollution. EHD tried to hobble the board’s ability to do that, and now we are looking forward to presenting, alongside the community, at a hearing in front of the full board,” said NMELC Attorney Maslyn Locke.

Mountain View coalition—Mountain View Neighborhood Association, Mountain View Community Action, and Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge want the city to reverse the air pollution permit for the NMTS proposed asphalt plant at 9615 Broadway SE, just past the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, and north of Isleta Pueblo and I-25.

“We have Superfund sites, brownfields, auto wrecking yards, asphalt plants, chemical companies, a sewer plant, and huge fires at metal recycling yards. Ya BASTA con la contaminación y las pólizas,” (ENOUGH with the pollution and the policies) said Mountain View resident Lauro Silva.  

Throughout the pandemic coalition members organized to increase the pressure on city and county officials to reverse the air pollution permit for NMTS. They mailed a postcard to all residents in Mountain View and the neighboring Pueblo of Isleta, canvassed door-to-door speaking with neighbors and sharing concerns, made phone calls and hand-delivered letters to Mayor Keller, gathered more than 700 signatures for their petition (http://bit.ly/stoptheasphaltassault) to elected officials to reverse the permit that EHD granted in October 2020. Friends of Valle de Oro created a StoryMap detailing the dozens of polluting industries already in the historic agricultural community. (https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/df926541539f4c2c9d3aba77e58d17aa).  

“We are dedicated to working toward a pollution-free environment concerning Land Use Zoning, Air Quality, and Water Quality and where there is environmental Justice for all that live in the Mountain View Community,” said Nora Garcia, president of the Mountain View Neighborhood Association.

The next step in the process entails a dispositive hearing, possibly in September, over legal rulings dealing with ozone levels out of compliance and zoning issues. The land where NMTS wants to construct and operate the asphalt plant is zoned agricultural, not industrial. A hearing on the merits is expected later this year. 

“We look forward to a more productive relationship as we move to cease the inequitable amounts of air pollution generated in our neighborhood that causes severe cumulative health impacts,” said Marla Painter, president of Mountain View Community Action.

For more information, visit the Mountain View Coalition Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MountainViewCoalition

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Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

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