Season 4 Episode 3: Targeted Pollution

SFR speaks with the lawyers and residents behind a Southside fight against an asphalt plant

Santa Fe has been described as a tale of two cities: the one in the north and the east, and the one in the south. The Southside, with a capital “S”, which is also my beat here at the Santa Fe Reporter, is the most densely populated in general, and also has the most young families and middle to low-income households, including immigrants and nonwhite people.

It’s also home to the city’s sewage treatment plant, several asphalt and gravel companies, and the airport, just to name a few of the polluting industries down here.

But one company, in particular its application for an updated air quality permit with the New Mexico Environment Department, has sparked a fight that started in late 2019 and has carried over into the latter part of 2020. That company is Associated Asphalt. It makes asphalt for roads and highways across the state, often in contracts with state and local governments.

Back in March, just after the first pandemic lockdown started, I wrote about the fight between Southside neighbors and the company. Associated Asphalt wants to consolidate its operations, which are currently in two spots, into one of those locations on the west side of Highway 599. It also wants to be able to operate 24/7.

So here we are, eight months later, and the permit is still in limbo, except now the Southside residents worried about the plant have two lawyers, Maslyn Locke and Eric Jantz from the New Mexico Environmental Law Centerand an air quality expert, Mike Schneider, on their side.

I interviewed Maslyn and Eric, among others, for this story. Excuse some of the background noise—working from home and outside of a studio means you can hear a bit of me typing notes and my dog obnoxiously chewing a bone.

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Music: Lone Piñon

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