Clearing the Air
The saga of North Valley residents battling a cement company in their neighborhood may have come to a close. On Wednesday, March 10, the city’s Air Quality Control Board approved a settlement agreement between the Greater Gardner Neighborhood Association and American Cement.
From the top: In 2007, American Cement asked the city for a permit that would allow it to emit three times more cement dust into the neighborhood. Months later, around 70 neighbors voiced opposition, citing air quality, health concerns and increased traffic. The transfer station is blocks away from Mountain Mahogany Community School and La Luz Elementary.
American Cement was purchased by Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua, which pulled the plug on the permit request in early April 2008. A year later, Grupo Cementos upped the ante. The company sought permission to operate the American Cement transfer station 24 hours a day, seven days a week and to emit almost five times as much dust each year. Meetings were held in 2009, and more than a hundred people attended. Despite protests, the permit was granted.
The neighbors appealed, and the Environmental Protection Agency got involved. The federal agency was concerned about the enforceability of the permit.
Weeks ago, the neighborhood and American Cement reached an agreement. Under it, the company will report any excess emissions to the neighborhood and will install Bag Leak Detectors, which will monitor silos around the clock, among other things.
Though the settlement was approved by the board, the city’s Air Quality Division still has to work the new requirements into the plant's permit.
Stick a Fork in Those Sausages
Gov. Bill Richardson is done signing bills from the 2010 legislative session. We were particularly interested in a few, which we followed in our Making Sausage column, our weekly live-blog from the Roundhouse and a feature story. Most of the measures bearing the governor's autograph will become law on May 19.
The much-debated Hispanic Education Act acknowledges and tries to improve on the Hispanic achievement gap. It's the first of its kind in the nation, according to the Governor's Office.
A bill that would protect whistleblowers from retaliation by their bosses finally made it through the lawmaking process. The legislation applies to public employees who disclose the illegal or unethical activities of their employers.
The Drug Policy Alliance pushed for a measure known as “ban the box” that would remove the felony question on public job applications. Employers can still ask that whether applicants have been convicted of a felony further along in the hiring process.
The Legislature passed a bill that allows those with concealed carry licenses to bring guns into restaurants that sell beer and wine. The governor signed it, but before he did, he asked the Department of Public Safety to add a regulation to the books that would ban drinking while carrying a concealed gun. Richardson is also asking the Roundhouse to make that a permanent, statewide law.