District judge grants preliminary injunction favoring Air Quality Board
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A district judge ruled the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Joint Air Quality Board can continue its work for now.
Judge Francis Matthew granted a preliminary injunction favoring the board Thursday. This means the board can operate normally until the court can rule on the legality of two Albuquerque City Council-approved bills regarding the board.
Judge Matthew said the injunction was needed, saying the board had a good chance of prevailing based on the merits of the case. The judge also said the injunction was needed, expressing concerns about allowing the council-approved changes to proceed should they be found unlawful.
It all started around the Health Environment and Equity Impacts Regulations. 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 were strongly against the proposal. Opposition included the University of New Mexico, Sandia National Labs and Kirtland Air Force Base.
City council then voted to uproot 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.
Then, the city council voted to override the vetoes. That blocked the board from approving any new regulations until February and meant new requirements for board membership.
It also prompted legal action, leading to this case and the district court ruling Thursday granting the injunction favoring the board.
City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn:
“City Council overstepped its authority in a rush to silence community voices during an ongoing legal rulemaking process at the Air Quality Control Board. We don’t have the authority to unilaterally stop a rulemaking midstream without even consulting our partner – Bernalillo County.”
Bernalillo County Commission Chair Barbara Baca:
“We are in full support of the district court’s ruling and view it as a confirmation of the important work of the Air Quality Board. We anticipate a follow-up hearing to determine the legality of the actions of the city council.”
Ava Montoya, a spokesperson for Mayor Tim Keller’s office:
“We warned the council’s action would lead to a long, drawn-out legal battle, which is not what our community needs. The judge’s ruling is promising, allowing the board to continue their work and giving the public a forum to discuss air quality, but we know this saga is not over, as this council overreach has stirred up needless anti-business and anti-environmental sentiment.”
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