Albuquerque City Council overrides vetoes on Air Quality Board

Air Quality Board to take center stage at Albuquerque city council meeting 10 update

Emotions turned explosive during Monday night's Albuquerque city council meeting.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Emotions turned explosive Monday as the Albuquerque City Council voted to override two of Mayor Tim Keller’s recent vetoes.

Both vetoes focused on the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board.

It all started around the Health Environment and Equity Impacts Regulations. However, it became clear during the meeting that many residents are now concerned with how city councilors are handling this bureaucratic battle. Some accused councilors of putting profits before the people.

“People should come, at some point, before the profits of these large corporations.” 

Residents in a South Valley neighborhood helped develop them. The regulations essentially block polluters from setting up shop near communities already struggling with pollution.

Business and industry leaders are strongly against the proposal. Opposition includes the University of New Mexico, Sandia National Labs and Kirtland Air Force Base.

“Due to its vagueness and lack of scientific basis, it introduces a level of unpredictability that directly threatens our operations.”

The city council appeared to try and stop the proposed rules from crossing the finish line by uprooting the Air Quality Control Board and its rulemaking powers.

Councilors passed two bills to do that in November, both of which Keller vetoed. That allowed the Air Quality Control Board to move forward with a hearing on the proposed regulations.

Many speakers noted the air board could vote either way on the proposed rules. It’s not even clear if they were planning to vote on them this week.

Now, it appears they won’t ever get the chance.

The city council’s actions Monday night block the board from approving any new regulations until February. They also implement new requirements for board membership – likely resulting in several new faces on the board.

Regardless of the proposed regulations, several speakers argued the council got in the way of a democratic process for the sake of business interests.

“Literally in the middle of their hearing, we’re saying you don’t have a right to be heard in your own community, because you’re not as important as the rest of the people. As some of the businesses that have been here, you’re not as important to this body. So please be quiet, and we’re going to make you be quiet. And I think that is reprehensible,” said City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn.

Mayor Tim Keller’s Office responded to the city council’s actions. He said, unless the county follows suit, this could put construction, the community, and businesses in limbo. He also said this could cause legal issues for years.