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Goodbye to a good-hearted reporter

Last week, the Albuquerque City Council passed two bills from Councilor Dan Lewis. One abolished the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board; the other established a moratorium on air quality regulations until February 1, 2024.

According to the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, the two bills represent an attempt to prevent the Air Board from hearing and passing the Health, Environment and Equity Impact rule, a regulation NMELC says would “address cumulative impacts from toxic and polluting industry when the City’s Environmental Health Department (EHD) makes air pollution permitting decisions in Bernalillo County.”

In his coverage of the vote, KUNM’s Bryce Dix reported that Bernalillo County opposed the change-up of the board, which has been governed by both the City of Albuquerque and the county. As he reported: 

“In fact, the County Commission has pushed back, voting 4-1 on a resolution asking the city to defer the vote. 

[Lewis’s new] ordinance is very specific on who is to sit on the new board –– including a licensed engineer, physician, and a university representative, all of which need some sort of experience with air pollution. The final spot would be given to a private industry representative.”

Coming up on Friday, we’ll air a conversation with Eric Jantz, legal director of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. Jantz and I talk about the Health, Environment and Equity Impact rule; the City Council’s vote; and how, statewide, politicians and policymakers subvert pollution control and progress on environmental justice.

Some things to read:

“US and UK militaries ‘owe’ combined $111bn in climate reparations – study” (Dharna Noor, The Guardian)

“Workers Are Getting Paid to Do Nothing at Los Alamos National Laboratory” (Alicia Inez Guzman, The Nation/Searchlight NM)

“New Mexico’s displaced coal miners have gotten the shaft on severance pay” (Nick Bowlin, High Country News)

“A nuclear reactor in Carlsbad? City officials call for project at federal waste repository” (Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus)

“To’hajiilee residents eager to see long-awaited water pipeline construction set to begin in 2024” (Gabrielle Porter, Source NM)

“Carnivale on the Rio Grande boosts awareness for Albuquerque ecosystems” (Diana Cervantes, Source NM)

“New Mexico’s farmers face uncertainty after monsoon never arrives” (Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican)

“Construction suspended on part of SunZia transmission project” (Ryan Boetel, Albuquerque Journal)

“When You Could Hear the Trees” (Kerri ní Dochartaigh, Emergence)

Last Friday morning, I sat in the pews at the Aquinas Newman Center on the University of New Mexico campus and joined others in remembering Colleen Keane. Colleen and I first crossed paths while both reporting for KUNM. Even though we didn’t see each other often, I admired her graceful strength and the force and compassion with which she covered New Mexico’s communities.

More than a decade ago, she wrote about New Mexico’s “Medicaid modernization,” a euphemism for cutting people from aid. For many years, she wrote about violence against Native people, especially in cities like Albuquerque, for New Mexico in Depth and the Santa Fe Reporter. Colleen also did all kinds of great engagement and education work here at KNME-TV.

While looking for more of Colleen’s work, I found her Santa Fe Reporter story, “Oceans Away.” In that 2018 story, she wrote about how Ireland was welcoming Syrian refugees at the same time the United States had “slammed the door on them.” While on a trip to Ireland researching her family’s history—her father, she writes, was from Ballymoe—Colleen had learned about the country’s history of welcoming and resettling refugees. (As an aside, while visiting Ireland this past summer, my boyfriend and I saw hotels and resorts that had been closed to tourists to host Ukrainian families.) 

Keane wrote of someone she met in Ballaghaderreen, which had multiple refugee centers: “[Dress shop owner Mary Gallagher] recalls, a gentle lilt in her voice, ‘Do you know who we are? We are people who have had extremely hard times with the famine and mass emigration. If we don’t know what it feels like to be like that, then we deserve to be someplace else. I hope we can open our hearts to them.’”

I’m so glad I read that story because it helped me better understand Colleen’s heart—which always seemed open to those she was reporting on. I also better understand why her memorial card included An Irish Blessing—and I think it’s fitting that a gentle rain was falling in Albuquerque the morning of her funeral. May the road rise to meet you, Colleen. Thank you for the good works and words you shared with the world.

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