Sierra Club Applauds Decision to Uphold New Mexico Clean Air Protections

Helena Chemical Company Must Continue to Meet Air Quality Standards

December 6- The Sierra Club applauded the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) ruling today that Helena Chemical Company’s facility in Mesquite, New Mexico must continue to operate with an air quality permit.

“After years of putting the health, safety and welfare of New Mexicans at risk, the EIB ruling today will help ensure that Helena Chemical is a good corporate neighbor,” said Michael Casaus, Sierra Club Senior Field Organizing Manager. “We are extremely pleased that the EIB ruled to protect the quality of life for families in Mesquite.”

Sierra Club played a significant role in this victory. Close to 800 New Mexicans, mainly Sierra Club members and supporters, submitted written comments to the members of the EIB urging them to ensure Helena Chemical continues to operate with an Air Quality Permit. The ruling was front page news in the Las Cruces Sun News and was featured on prominent blogs like NMPolitics.net and ClearlyNewMexico.com.

Earlier this year Helena Chemical, one of the largest producers of agricultural chemicals and fertilizer in the United States, unilaterally decided that they no longer needed an air quality permit for their Mesquite facility. The New Mexico Environment Department disagreed and rejected their proposal to terminate their air quality permit. Helena Chemical appealed this decision to the EIB and public hearings on the matter began in July.

Over the past few years, the company has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties for violating necessary state regulations, including their Air Quality Permit.

“The Sierra Club and our 12,000 members and supporters in New Mexico commend the EIB for today’s ruling,” said Casaus. “Helena Chemical’s request to be made exempt from state monitoring would have put New Mexicans at even greater risk. Disasters like the BP spill make it more evident now than ever that corporate polluters like Helena Chemical need more monitoring, not less.”

Families live a few yards, and an elementary school is within a couple of blocks, from Helena Chemical’s facility. Residents of Mesquite report odors, dust, and a range of health risks which they believe are related to exposure of chemicals from Helena Chemical.

“Cancelling the air quality permit requirement would have ignored our community’s concerns about the impact of Helena Chemical’s operation on Mesquite’s quality of life,” said Arturo Uribe, Executive Director of Mesquite Community Action Committee. “We’re glad that the EIB took a stand to protect our families.”

“Helena Chemical has tried to silence community members who speak out against the company by filing defamation lawsuits,” said Uribe. “But they did not silence the hundreds of New Mexicans who want the state Environment Department to continue to monitor pollution by Helena Chemical and other corporations in New Mexico.”