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Council Passed Two Bills that Address Serious Concerns with the Air Board

Legislation Protects Jobs at UNM, Kirtland and Sandia Labs.
November 09, 2023

At last night’s City Council Meeting, the City Council approved two pieces of legislation  (O-23-88 and R-23-176) that are necessary to prevent the Air Board Quality Control Board (Air Board) from passing a rule that will devastate Albuquerque’s economy and harm the safety and health of the community. The Gateway Center, the University of New Mexico Hospital, Sandia National Labs, Kirtland Air Force Base, and Isotopes Park were all required to obtain air quality permits from the Air Board. The proposed Air Board rule, set to be heard on December 4-8, would make it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to obtain an air quality permit in Bernalillo County. The City of Albuquerque Legal Department filed a response to the proposed Air Board rule on behalf of the Environmental Health Department, which said, “the Proposed Rule seemingly applies to any entity that requires an air permit, including small businesses, schools, office buildings, gas stations, and larger entities.”

At the November 8, 2023 City Council Meeting where O-23-88 and R-23-176 were heard, Mayor Keller’s Administration admitted they did not support the proposed rule.

If the Council did not act to reform the undemocratic practices of the Air Board, future hospitals, green energy developments, and job centers would be imperiled. 

In its response to the proposed Air Board rule, the Environmental Health Department said it was uncertain if the proposed Air Board rule could be implemented or enforced. The ordinance, O-23-88, addresses this problem by requiring rules to engage with regulators in the development process.

The response from Environmental Health also raised concerns about the impartiality of Board Member Kitty Richards. The ordinance approved by the City Council last night, has language that requires Air Board members with conflicts of interest to be disqualified from voting on that issue. The ordinance also requires the Air Board ’s subcommittee meetings be open to the public and shall follow the procedures described in the Open Meetings Act to prevent decisions from being made behind closed doors.

Amendments were made to both the O-23-88 and R-23-176 addressing concerns by the Bernalillo County Commission. Language that allowed the City Council to veto a proposed Air Board rule was removed from the ordinance and a section was added to R-23-176 requiring the City to collaborate with the County to address differences in policies.

If neither of these pieces of legislation becomes law, the Air Board will continue to act undemocratically and make it almost impossible for the University of New Mexico, Sandia National Labs, Kirtland Air Force Base, and the City of Albuquerque to build facilities. The University of New Mexico expressed concern that the proposed rule, “will burden growth and fail to achieve the health outcomes desired by the Petitioners.” It could also jeopardize the proposed New Mexico United Stadium.  

If the Keller Administration does not support the rule and does not support either the ordinance or the resolution, how will they stop the proposed rule?

O-23-88 and R-23-176 were approved at the November 8, 2023, City Council Meeting.

Read the Albuquerque Environmental Health Department’s Response to the Rule and the University of New Mexico Submission to the Albuquerque City Council are attached.