In a surprising turn of events, Albuquerque City Council suspended the ongoing environmental justice rule hearing just one day into what was anticipated to be a weeklong discussion.
The halt coincided with the council’s move to override Mayor Tim Keller’s recent vetoes concerning legislation aimed at reshaping the Air Quality Control Board, the very entity considering the environmental justice rule.
A bill aimed to postpone the Air Quality Control Board’s consideration of an environmental justice regulation until February. Despite passing with a 5-4 vote on Nov. 8, falling short of a veto-proof majority, councilors later voted 7-2 to reinstate the moratorium.
Councilors Tammy Fiebelkorn and Isaac Benton dissented. However, a pivotal moment occurred when Democrat Councilors Klarissa Peña and Pat Davis changed their votes, resulting in a 6-3 decision to override the veto. This decision allowed for the removal of board members, with Fiebelkorn, Benton, and Davis opposing the move and Peña once again altering her vote.
The proposed legislation, sponsored by Councilor Dan Lewis, aimed to replace current board members and postpone hearings on environmental justice regulations until February.
The board, comprised of seven members, was in the midst of a $49,000 contract for the hearing at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
The contentious rule faced opposition from defense contractors, developers, and major employers like Kirtland Air Force Base, the University of New Mexico, and Sandia National Laboratories.
Critics argued that the regulation was overly burdensome, potentially quadrupling permitting times, threatening economic development, and even impacting national security.
While some supported the need for “environmental justice” regulations, opponents criticized the proposed rule’s drafting process, claiming inadequate stakeholder involvement. The sudden suspension of the hearing raised concerns about its impact on ongoing discussions and decision-making processes.