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ABQ Upholds Gas Plant’s Permit

Ed Williams

Honstein Oil Company’s gasoline distribution plant is located in the middle of a low-income Albuquerque neighborhood, and just a few blocks from an elementary school. Environmental justice groups have been asking the city to revoke the plant’s permit for years. The city dismissed the group’s appeal Wednesday. 

Honstein is one of dozens of industrial businesses in the area with air pollution permits from the city. People nearby have long complained of pollution-related illnesses, so when the city renewed Honstein’s air permit several years ago, neighborhood activists filed an appeal.

"The state Air Quality Control Act was intended to protect public health," said Eric Jantz, an attorney for the New Mexico Environmental Law Center who represented the neighborhood groups in their appeal. Jantz said that in his interpretation, state law requires the city to consider the cumulative impact of all the air pollution in the area.

"In Albuquerque at least, where there are a disproportionate number of sources in a few low-income minority neighborhoods,  you really have to do that cumulative impact analysis before you can permit new pollution sources in these neighborhoods," he said.  

But the Albuquerque Air Quality Division told KUNM that considering the total pollution in the area would be too burdensome, and that the Honstein plant should keep its operating permit because it hadn’t violated any environmental rules.

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.