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An Act Relating To Public Health; Establishing A Health Impact Assessment Program In The Department Of Environment; Requiring That Certain Construction Or Development Projects Obtain A Certificate Of Health Impact; Providing For The Establishment Of A Health Impact Advisory Committee; Providing For Rulemaking; Providing For Appeals; Amending A Section Of The Health Information System Act To Require The Department Of Health To Use Its Health Information System To Issue Community Health Indexes For New Mexico Counties.

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MOD SB 048

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Fiscal Impact Report

This measure enacts the Health Impact Assessment Act (Act) and requires the Secretary (Secretary) of the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to establish a Health Impact Assessment Program (Program) “to promote healthy communities, eliminate health disparities among communities and protect the human environment.” The Program will issue certificates of health impact (Certificates).


The key provision of the Act provides that:


“a person shall not begin construction or development of a project that requires an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement for effects on air, water and soil quality pursuant to another State or federal law unless the person receives a certificate of health impact . . . .”


It is important to note that the Act applies only to projects that require an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement under another federal or state law such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or a state version of NEPA. NM currently does not have a state-level version of NEPA. Certificates are not required for projects that the Secretary determines are in response to an emergency declared by the Governor, remediation projects or projects for the treatment or disposal of wastewater or sewage sludge. The Secretary will hold a hearing before ruling on an application for a Certificate.


The person must apply to the NMED for a certificate and within 90 days, the NMED will issue a health impact assessment (Assessment) of the area within a one-mile radius of the proposed project. The Assessment will describe the projected outcome of the project in terms of the effect on county health outcome indicators listed in the county health index for that county created pursuant to Subsection E of Section 24-14A-3 NMSA 1978. NMED will issue a Certificate only if the Assessment conforms to the health impact standards set forth in the Program rules.


NMED will deny any application for a Certificate for any one of several reasons, including, among others, if the project would not meet the health impact standards set forth in the rules or if the applicant has in the past 10 years “exhibited a history of willful disregard for environmental laws” or had an environmental permit revoked or permanently suspended for cause.


The Secretary will adopt rules for the Program that will address: procedures for conducting health impact assessments and obtaining health impact certificates; procedures for notice to those affected; and, establishing the health impact standards and using county health indexes among other things.


The Secretary will create a five-member Health Impact Assessment Program Advisory Committee that will review applications for Certificates. The committee will consist of 5 members appointed by the Secretary. They will have specialized knowledge of health impact assessment and environmental impact analysis.


The bill also amends Section 24-14A-3 NMSA 1978, the statutory section that creates the Health Information System, by requiring that the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) create a County Health Index for each county. The index will evaluate the health of the county and will take into consideration the primary, secondary and other health indicators of the vulnerability of the county to the health effects of of air, water or soil contamination.


The Act and Program appears to be a positive step towards taking the effects of pollution on health into account before a proposed project gets permission to start when it may be too late to prevent the damage. It may provide another level of checks and balances that might prove beneficial in protection the public’s health.


A few questions and possible concerns about the bill are:

  • Should the NM DOH be more involved in the administration of the Program?
  • Would it be beneficial to make the program more community based rather than administratively based? And, if so, will 90 days provide enough turnaround time for applications?
  • Will politics influence the administration of the Program given that the Secretary, an official appointed by the Governor, will appoint the Advisory Committee and the Secretary’s agency will administer the Program, including the conduct of the Assessment?
  • Should the required written notices set forth in the Act be issued in Diné as well as English and Spanish?

Date of Summary:  1/23/2014


SB 048 died in the Senate Committees Committee.


Updated 7/31/14