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Pollution Fight in Valley

Pollution Fight in Valley

'Last week’s decision by the Air Quality Board to grant us a hearing on Honstein was pleasantly surprising, especially considering how many times the community has been shut down in the past' -- SWOP spokesperson

fuel storage tankBY JOSEPH SORRENTINO

The Albuquerque Air Quality Control Board sided with the San Jose neighborhood by rejecting a motion from the Albuquerque Environmental Health Department (EHD) for summary judgment on an air permit retroactively granted to a gasoline distribution depot.

The Honstein Oil Co. fuel depot had been operating in the San Jose neighborhood for decades without an air permit. EHD urged the Board to decide the community members’ appeal of the air permit in a “paper trial,” rather than allowing the community to present evidence about the health impacts of air pollution from Honstein’s operation and other air pollution sources.

The Air Quality Control Board granted SouthWest Organizing Project’s (SWOP’s) and San Jose community members’ petition for a full hearing on the matter. The hearing has not yet been scheduled.

“Last week’s decision by the Air Quality Board to grant us a hearing on Honstein was pleasantly surprising, especially considering how many times the community has been shut down in the past,” says Juan Reynosa, Environmental Justice Organizer with SWOP. “Yet it also goes to show how good decisions can be made when the board really listens to community concerns.”

The San Jose neighborhood is recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an “Environmental Justice Community”. This means EPA considers it a community of color that carries a disproportionate burden of polluting industries. The San Jose neighborhood represents one percent of Bernalillo County’s population, but contains within its boundaries 28 percent of the county’s air pollution sources, according to the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. The Honstein permit allows the facility to emit 2.26 tons of volatile organic compounds per year.

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Lex Voytek is a nervous wreck and reading quiets the noise. Reach her at books@freeabq.com.