The requirement that diesel-powered vehicles in Bernalillo County get bi-annual emissions tests is just about gone. The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board voted Wednesday night to kill the three-year-old program because it wasn’t authorized by state law. Now, the city’s Environmental Health Department will send the board’s decision to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for formal approval to end the program. The department’s deputy director, Danny Nevarez, said it shouldn’t take too long—maybe a few weeks—for the EPA to give that approval. In the meantime, owners of diesel-powered vehicles still have to get their vehicles tested until the program is officially junked, Nevarez said.
Two years after a community advocacy group filed a complaint against a City of Albuquerque department, a federal agency confirmed it will conduct an investigation into the Albuquerque Air Quality Division and its governing board. Members of the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) filed a complaint in 2014 against the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board and the Air Quality Division. The group said industrial businesses are allowed to overly pollute neighborhoods occupied predominantly people of color. The complaint also alleged the city board discriminated against community members who live in affected neighborhoods by denying them a public hearing. Now, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is investigating the claims.
Juan Reynosa, a field organizer with SWOP, said his group tried to work with the board for years to lessen the effects of pollution from industrial businesses near residential neighborhoods.
Until earlier this year, states across the nation, including New Mexico, had been holding public meetings and planning to cut pollution from power plants. Taken as a whole, those plans were the Obama Administration’s most significant attempt, through the Clean Power Plan (CPP), to cut U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases. With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unable to adhere to the original timeline for requiring states to complete their carbon-cutting plans or face implementation of a federal plan, Texas, Utah, and 18 others suspended work. Others like Colorado, California, Oregon, and many northeastern states continued planning.But in February, the Supreme Court stayed implementation of the CPP, pending the outcome of a lawsuit against the plan before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Then, there’s New Mexico.