By Galen Farrington, Alto Coalition for Environmental Preservation
From the Fall 2022 newsletter
Retired and tranquil, our space in the world had just been shattered by the nondescript legal posting placed on the fencing across the two-lane highway from our subdivision’s postal pod. As my wife and I stood in the drizzle, we read that a concrete batch plant was to be erected in the elk-inhabited meadow before us. We and two other retired couples met and developed an action plan that began with two opposition letters to the New Mexico Environment Department, as directed by the posting.
Here is the nightmare that would ensue if that plant were built: The world’s No. 1 industry, which uses the world’s No. 1 life-sustaining resource, water, would be located within destructively harmful breathing distance of at least 200 residents/property owners and numerous endangered species, some of which are protected in the Class I White Mountain Wilderness area less than 1.2 miles to the west.
The air quality surrounding concrete batch plants has been studied at length, and the common denominator contributing to compromised health is the ingestion of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, nickel, formaldehyde, and crystalline silica. This is especially true for the breathing-impaired segments of the elderly and youth populations.
According to Rice University, “The most recent data show that, in 2015 alone, particulate matter was linked to 5,200 premature deaths in Houston,” where there are dozens of concrete batch plants.”
The Environment Department’s Air Quality Bureau states that its mission is “to protect the inhabitants and natural beauty of New Mexico by preventing the deterioration of air quality.”
The proposed concrete batch plant will not enhance air quality or add to the natural beauty along The Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway. National guidelines preclude heavy industry from disturbing the natural beauty of these designated areas.
Earlier this year, the Environment Department denied the contractor’s permit request with more than 50 pages of rationale. Roper Construction then waited until the eleventh hour to appeal. Now the state Environment Improvement Board will provide a second public hearing Oct. 18-20 to determine the legitimacy of the Environment Department’s “final order.”
The contractor has ignored crucially sensitive populations, has misrepresented modeling procedures required in the permit request, has ignored the neighborhood opposition, has demonstrated a complete disregard for the environment with an assault on government regulations, and has requested an operations schedule of 18 hours per day from 3 a.m. to 9 p.m. from May through August, an obvious disrespect for his neighbors’ quest for environmental peacefulness.
The Lincoln County commissioners have not reviewed the prospects of creating an ordinance that would apply to the NM Highway 220 corridor’s uniqueness, a responsibility granted to them in at least three documents they have pledged to adhere to.
During the last 17 months, Roper Construction has pursued its business plan in spite of the universal destruction that would result.
My wife and I dedicated a combined 85 years as educators to instill the first tenet the system addressed: to create a better citizenry that produced individuals who served the common good of their communities. This contractor missed that lesson.
TAKE ACTION: Please click here to tell the Environmental Improvement Board to reject Roper’s appeal and the polluting plant’s permit once and for all.
Photo: Roper’s concrete batch plant in Carrizozo. Courtesy Mark Severance.