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Civil Rights Complaint Prompts EPA Investigation In Albuquerque

Rashad Mahmood/KUNM
Air permits issued by the City of Albuerque in Bernalillo County's South Valley

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it’s opening a civil rights investigation into Albuquerque and Bernalillo County air pollution policies.

Many of Bernalillo County’s polluting industries lie next to residential neighborhoods in the South Valley. Residents there have long complained of illnesses from air pollution, and have asked the city and county to change their air permitting processes to no avail.

"This is something that the communities have identified for many years, and now, finally, the federal government at least has decided it’s worth taking a look at," said Eric Jantz, attorney for the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. They filed a complaint on behalf of residents alleging Albuquerque and Bernalillo County air pollution laws unfairly discriminate against low-income people of color. Jantz says the investigation is the first of its kind in New Mexico.

Depending on the investigation’s findings, the EPA could force the city to change its air pollution policies. Or the feds could withhold the tens of millions of dollars the city gets from the EPA for air pollution programs.

Ed Williams came to KUNM in 2014 by way of Carbondale, Colorado, where he worked as a public radio reporter covering environmental issues. Originally from Austin, Texas, Ed has reported on environmental, social justice, immigration and Native American issues in the U.S. and Latin America for the Austin American-Statesman, Z Magazine, NPR’s Latino USA and others. In his spare time, look for Ed riding his mountain bike in the Sandias or sparring on the jiu-jitsu mat.
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