Image from the motion picture: The Big Lebowski, directed by the Cohen Brothers

Operating and air permits can be the rules Environmental Justice communities live by.  They are meant to keep community residents safe from unhealthy emissions.  Air permits are a way for local governments to ensure clean air in our schools, homes, parks, churches and other community centers.  But– sometimes even in horribly polluted places air permits are not in place.

Often air permits can provide information through emission inventories, details on what chemicals are being emitted into our air from industrial facilities. This allows families to know what chemicals are being emitted from the facility in their communities.  Many of us widely expect and see the need for air regulation through air permits.  We trust that they are in place and we trust that air permits are a way the government ensures our safety.

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Whether you love them or hate them, air permits are the rules that industrial facilities must adhere too and accept.

Well, for New Mexico residents, air permits are not so easy to trust.

For those of you not incessantly following our Facebook feed (‘Like’ us), we over here at Global Community Monitor have been working to launch a statewide, community-led air monitoring project in New Mexico.  Partnering with the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), we’ve trained two communities and have two more to go!

Yes, our Bucket Brigade trainers have been busy- but here’s the deal: many of the facilities that community leaders  include in their toxic tour, do not need an air permit!  No Permit Required (NPR), includes chemical and oil storage facilities and all other industry that reports emitting less “10 pounds per hour of any criteria pollutant and 10 tons per year of any regulated air contaminantor 1 ton per year of lead.”

This means, that the two industrial sized tank farms that are on either side of your community can emit, nine and a half tons of benzeneper year and still not need an air permit.  As a Bay Area resident who can’t even park a car for more than two hours without a permit, this is absurd!

Air permits for heavy industry or industrial storage are widely accepted as necessary, whether you live in the Bay Area or not.  We deserve to be protected from high amounts of Group 1 carcinogens emitted in our neighborhoods, and we definitely have the right to know about it. Communities in Mesquite and Albuquerque, New Mexico are demanding their right to know by launching a Bucket Brigade.  These fenceline communities have taken matters into their own hands by monitoring the air, in their neighborhoods, themselves.   You’re not going to want to miss the results!