Equity, Environmental Justice Critical to NM Infrastructure Spending
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
A new report outlined how state officials can use money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to address environmental justice, an important consideration as New Mexico recovers from multiple wildfires.
The National Wildlife Federation report coincides with a visit last weekend by President Joe Biden to see the devastation firsthand.
Max Trujillo, county commissioner in San Miguel County and senior field coordinator for Hispanics Enjoying Camping Hunting and the Outdoors (HECHO), said federal money will be needed to restore heavily damaged watersheds.
"Right now, with the disaster that has happened, it's even more important to start directing some of these resources to infrastructure," Trujillo urged.
The federal government will funnel $3.7 billion dollars to New Mexico over the next five years for infrastructure, airports, broadband and water projects.
Tatiana Eaves, environmental and climate justice policy specialist for the National Wildlife Federation, said many residents already know what projects would improve their communities, but do not have the resources to make them reality.
"Too often, large sums of federal funds end up going to the usual players, and the largest cities with the largest capacity to research this information and write these grants," Eaves observed. "Which are not actually the communities that need the resources the most."
The report provides a framework for front-line and fenceline communities facing environmental-justice issues to finance solutions through infrastructure dollars. Trujillo pointed out it will be an important consideration for poor counties impacted by the fires.
"I just want the people of our area to be treated as equitably as the people in the richest county in the state," Trujillo asserted. "There's equity and justice issues there. I don't want for our people to be marginalized and just thrown a few crumbs."
Biden noted the approaching monsoon season in New Mexico, and said an additional $22 million will be allocated to protect critical water infrastructure from post-fire flooding and debris flows. The wildfire, now the largest in the state's history was sparked by a prescribed burn initiated by the U.S. Forest Service.
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