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City Council Overrides Mayor’s Vetoes

From the office of City Councilor Dan Lewis, District 5.
December 04, 2023

Tonight, the Albuquerque City Council overrode the Mayor’s vetoes of O-23-88 and R-23-176. R-23-176 put’s a moratorium on the current Air Quality Board’s Hearing of the HEEI environmental justice rule effective immediately. The Administration and the Environmental Health Department cannot spend any City resources on this hearing including personnel, City finances for rental of space, court reporter, and outside counsel. Essentially, the hearing must cease according to the law.  

O-23-88 will become law five days after publication and the Administration and Council will go about the important work of replacing members of the board based on the criteria laid out in the bill. 

City Councilor Dan Lewis sponsored the two bills and said “Tim Keller chose environmental extremists over major economic development and jobs in our City by vetoing legislation that puts checks and balances on a rogue Air Quality Control Board. The City Council, recognizing the importance of putting jobs first, voted to override the Mayor's vetoes. This decision ensures that the Air Board is prevented from enacting regulations that could make it exceedingly difficult or impossible for companies to obtain air permits in Albuquerque.”

The Mayor and his Administration had serious concerns with the proposed rule, yet he chose to veto the two pieces of Council legislation that would prevent the board from implementing this extreme proposal. The City acknowledged that there was no mechanism for dismissing rules or proposals that were out of the jurisdiction of the Air Quality Control Board. This legislation helps clarify the jurisdiction and allows the County and the City to put measures in place that clarify the scope and jurisdiction of the board. 

The Council heard from the University of New Mexico, organizations related to Kirtland Air Force Base, and even officially from Sandia National Labs regarding anxiety and fear over the extreme nature of the current Air Quality Board. Countless organizations that represent economic growth and business expressed opposition to the board and to the new rule. 

Sandia Labs has over 12,000 employees and has a $4.6 billion economic impact to the State. Jeff Heath from Sandia National Labs commented at tonight’s meeting; “We have deep concern about the rule due to its vagueness and lack of scientific and technical basis. The Nation’s defense can be put at risk if unable to obtain air quality permits.”

United States Air Force representative Captain Ariel Noffke, Assistant Regional Environmental Counsel, Kirtland AFB, NM said; “Please overturn the Mayor’s veto.”

The Albuquerque Journal wrote, “the so-called Health, Environment and Equity Impacts rule is perhaps the most restrictive regulatory rule in New Mexico history. And environmentalists love it because it would apply to a vast array of businesses that require air quality permits — from dry cleaners, auto body shops and concrete plants to schools, hospitals, and university facilities.” 

The University of New Mexico said, “UNM believes that the proposed regulations will negatively impact UNM operations on main campus and the Health Sciences Center, UNM Hospital, and UNM’s anticipated development of the South Campus TIDD and UNM Health infrastructure.” 

Even the City’s Environmental Health Department has grave concerns with the regulations and stated, “the Proposed Rule seemingly applies to any entity that requires an air permit, including small businesses, schools, hotels, office buildings, gas stations, and larger entities.” 

The undemocratic decisions and behind-the-scenes deals of the extremists on the Air Board are poised to inflict severe damage on our major employers, putting at risk our capacity to attract businesses essential for job growth. 

Now that these two bills have become law, the Council will have the opportunity to work with the Mayor and the County Commission to build a more diverse, transparent, and professional board that better represents the entire City. The new board will get back to helping us improve and implement a top-notch air quality program.