Report: 500,000+ New Mexicans at risk from breathing dirty air; Coal-fired plants and dirty diesel contribute
A new report from the American Lung Association says more than 500,000 (about 1-in-4) New Mexicans are at risk for air-pollution related illnesses and the state’s two most populous counties, which account for almost half of the state’s population, get failing grades for air quality.
Many state and local leaders are sure to see the report as a call to action, so conservative pro-business groups took to social media and email in a rapid-response effort to deflect from the report’s major conclusions.
The New Mexico Business Coalition was the first to weigh in to redefine the report.
From their email Thursday morning:
What? No Air Pollution Crises in NM? Radical environmental groups have been shouting, protesting and spending thousands of dollars on advertising to say there is a toxic air pollution crisis in New Mexico.
NMBC is apparently referring to billboard and media campaigns by New Energy Economy and allies highlighting the rising health dangers from coal burning power, primarily at PNM’s San Juan Generating Plant in the Four Corners area.
While the report does note that San Juan County, like most of New Mexico’s less populous areas, has one of the country’s lowest instances of particulate pollution, it also gives Bernalillo and Dona Ana Counties D and F grades, respectively, for air quality and counts more than 1-in-4 New Mexicans at risk for air-pollution related illnesses.
County-by-County Threats to Health
Late in 2014, scientists from some of the nation’s most prestigious universities released a report outlining steps to improve air quality and public health:
According to a new report, strong limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants could improve air quality and prevent an estimated 3,500 premature deaths along with other significant benefits to human health.
The report, Health Co-Benefits of Carbon Standards for Existing Power Plants, released on September 30 by Harvard, Syracuse and Boston Universities, evaluates alternative approaches for reducing carbon pollution from power plants, and shows that limits must be strong, flexible and enforceable to achieve the greatest health benefits for the American people.
The American Lung Association’s new report finds that more than 500,000 New Mexicans are at risk of developing pollution-related illnesses. Here is the breakdown, county-by-county, for New Mexico:
|County||Total Pop||Under 18||65 & Over||Pediatric Asthma||Adult Asthma||COPD||CV Disease||Diabetes||Poverty Estimate|
In addition, several New Mexico counties were graded on various air quality standards.
San Juan and Eddy Counties, both home to prolific oil and gas extraction, were given a “C” for having too many high ozone days.
Bernalillo County received “D” grades for particle pollution and high ozone days.
Dona Ana County was the only county to receive an “F” in particle pollution measurements.
Environmental Watchdogs Call for More Action
Unlike politically conservative business groups, environmental advocates read the report as a call for action across the west.
From the Environmental Defense Fund:
It’s report card time for air quality in the U.S. and, unfortunately, several western states are getting grades of “needs improvement.” That’s the take-away from the American Lung Association’s (ALA) annual “State of the Air” report released today. When it comes to unhealthy ozone pollution (commonly referred to as “smog”), several western states are simply not making the grade.
Once mainly seen in major urban areas, smog pollution is now becoming more and more of an issue in the rural mountain west. This is bad news for local residents as smog can cause serious health impacts like aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, and heart attacks…
One of the main culprits? Air pollution from oil and gas development. Ozone pollution is created by an interaction between two different sorts of air pollutants, oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Oil and gas development provides a significant source of both of these air contaminants across many parts of the West.
In the report released today, 14 counties across the Rocky Mountain region (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) received failing grades from the ALA due to unhealthy levels of ozone pollution and an additional six counties received “D” grades.
New Mexico air quality issues have come under greater scrutiny lately. NASA recently announced that a huge methane cloud hangs over the Farmington/Four Corners area where oil and gas development are rapidly expanding.
In addition, oil and gas development has been linked to man-made earthquakes occurring in communities in New Mexico near oil extraction sites.
A United States Geological Survey explored how human activity in relation to oil and gas production and drilling can cause earthquakes. The areas studied included two regions in New Mexico, one in northern New Mexico and another in southeastern New Mexico. In all, the report studied “17 areas within eight states with increased rates of induced seismicity.” Much of the attention is on […]
A group of researchers will look into the causes of a large methane cloud over the northwest corner of New Mexico, according to an an announcement on Monday from NASA. Christian Frankenberg, a jet propulsion scientist, will be representing NASA in the research. “With all the ground-based and airborne resources that the different groups are bringing to the region, we […]