Published in the Albuquerque Journal

Do communities have a right to have input into, and benefit from, fines levied on bad actors? That’s what’s at issue as the New Mexico Environment Department considers updates to their supplemental environmental project policy (“Revised air quality rules tied to environment,” May 14). (New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan) Flynn and the Albuquerque Journal seem to believe only polluting industries should have input. That’s the wrong choice for New Mexico.

Secretary Flynn is trying to gift wrap this for industry as an attempt to clean up supposed “project abuses” under his predecessor. There are several problems with that argument. First, (former Secretary) Ron Curry has been gone from NMED for almost seven years. If this problem needed fixing so badly, what took Flynn so long?

Secondly, the enforcement example Flynn uses – Helena Chemical’s Mesquite plant in southern Doña Ana County – ought to be a model for evenhanded enforcement leading to much-needed environmental attention and funding for an under-served community. Instead, the (Gov. Susana) Martinez administration has offered us little to no enforcement of clean air and water laws. And what enforcement there has been – such as the action taken against the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for the radioactive fire at that facility – has been toothless.

Rather than playing the blame game long after the fact, I’d ask Flynn to take another look at under-served communities like Mesquite and others across New Mexico that could use more attention and clean-up action.

Let’s focus more on righting environmental injustice and less on political spin.

Ben Shelton
Political and legislative director
Conservative Voters New Mexico
Santa Fe