New Mexico Local Govt Air Quality Regulations

Policy Type Policy
Policy Jurisdiction State — New Mexico
Status Passed
Tags Air Quality, Democratization

Policy Summary

New Mexico Senate Bill 8 would allow state entities and local air quality boards to adopt regulations that protect health and climate to be more stringent than the federal government.

SB 8 benefits New Mexico by:

  1. Protect air quality and public health by addressing hazardous air pollutants that cause adverse health effects and even cancer. This includes the pollution from oil and gas development that can disproportionately affect communities of color and emissions from the Navajo Refinery in Artesia, which emits high-levels of benzene.
  2. Protect our climate by allowing the NM Environment Department to directly regulate methane. Currently, the agency cannot directly regulate methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is more than 80 times more harmful to the climate than carbon dioxide. Rules currently under consideration to address leaks and emissions address smog-forming volatile organic compounds and only address methane incidentally as a co-pollutant.
  3. Protect our groundwater and drinking water by allowing the state to consider strong, enforceable limits on emerging pollutants such as PFAS. Strengthen cleanup standards at polluting facilities such as the hazardous waste deposited around Los Alamos National Lab from the Manhattan Project and Cold War-era plutonium processing. Local officials have called for more stringent clean-up standards to protect the drinking water. SB 8 could also allow the state to address cleanup at other site such as Sandia National Laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base.
  4. Protect visibility in our great outdoors by reducing pollution that leads to regional haze in in our national parks, national wilderness areas, and national monuments.

Striking out “no more stringent than” in the state’s Air Quality Control and Hazardous Waste Acts would affirm the authority of state and local officials to decide how to protect the health, safety, and environment of New Mexicans. For decades, New Mexico has hamstrung government officials at the state Environmental Improvement Board and local air quality boards; SB-8 would change that.

Federal environmental laws are a critical “floor” of protection for all Americans regardless of where they live. But they were never intended to hold states back from reaching a higher “ceiling.” They are also riddled with loopholes that exempt polluters from key provisions. 

Additional state measures would help reduce New Mexico’s ozone pollution, which causes respiratory, cardiovascular, and other health issues. This is not a theoretical problem for frontline communities living in polluted areas. Recently, the American Lung Association gave several counties in New Mexico low and failing grades for air quality–including Lea, Eddy, and San Juan counties, where oil and gas operations are intense and expanding.

SB 08 compels the NM Environmental Improvement Board and local boards to adopt rules ensuring the maintenance of a maximum ozone concentration of 95 percent of the national ambient air quality standard for ozone, removing the required public notice and hearing for rule changes currently mandated. It removes restrictions on these rules being more stringent than those required by federal laws. It also repeals NM statute 74-2-5.2, which establishes NMED as the sole state air pollution control agency for purposes relating to federal air pollution legislation.

Policy summary courtesy of: Environmental Defense Fund

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