Air Quality in Texas' Border Region with Mexico
The Texas Clean Air Act (Texas Health and Safety Code, Section 382) gives the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality responsibility for safeguarding the state's air resources from pollution. Related to this mandate, the TCEQ also implements, with respect to Texas, those portions of the Federal Clean Air Act which that Act has delegated to the states.
Only one area in the Texas border region—El Paso—has been designated as nonattainment under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. For a period of time after 1990, El Paso was in nonattainment for ozone, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter.
El Paso and ozone: After El Paso was designated nonattainment in the 1970s under a "one-hour" standard, the Texas Air Control Board (a predecessor to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) adopted the first ozone action plan for El Paso in 1979.
The TCEQ revised the plan in the mid-1990s and by 2004 ozone concentrations in El Paso County were below the old one-hour standard and also below a newer 1997 eight-hour standard.
EPA designated El Paso attainment under the new standard, but residual requirements under the old standard included development of a "maintenance plan" to assure continued attainment under the new standard. The TCEQ submitted such a plan in 2006 and the EPA approved it in 2009. Through 2012, monitored concentrations have remained below both standards.
El Paso and carbon monoxide: As with ozone, a nonattainment designation in the late 1970s led to an action plan for reducing carbon monoxide. Beginning in 1997, measurements from monitors no longer showed any violations. In 2006 the TCEQ applied to the EPA for redesignation for El Paso and also submitted a maintenance plan, and in 2008 EPA approved both.
El Paso and particulate matter: In 1990 El Paso was designated as nonattainment under PM-10 standards. The following year, the Texas Air Control Board began implementing an action plan. Measurements in 2009 indicated that there were no violations, but growth projections for El Paso included expectations of increased vehicle-miles traveled.
The TCEQ has continued working with El Paso on attaining the PM10 standard and in 2012 adopted a revised Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the TCEQ and the City of El Paso to reflect updated PM control measures.
These latest control measures can be found in 30 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Chapter 111, Control of Air Pollution from Visible Emissions and Particulate Matter, Subchapter A, Division 4, Materials Handling, Construction, Roads, Streets, Alleys, and Parking Lots.
The plans that the TCEQ develops in cooperation with local governments to address problem areas are called State Implementation Plans. All the details for El Paso are available on a dedicated web page.
El Paso shares an air basin with parts of Doña Ana County in New Mexico and with Ciudad Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
Since the mid-1990s officials at all levels of government in the United States and Mexico have cooperated formally in assessing and addressing the air quality challenges in this air basin. This formal cooperation takes place through the Joint Advisory Committee for the Improvement of Air Quality in the Paso del Norte, (usually called the Joint Advisory Committee or JAC).
The JAC is the only body of its kind along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, and is considered a model for binational cooperation at the local/regional level. It is composed of local, state and federal government officials, as well as representatives of the public and non-governmental organizations.
Air Quality Monitoring Stations in the Border Region
The TCEQ collects continuous (real-time) and non-continuous data on the ambient concentrations of various air pollutants at 21 different monitoring stations in the Texas border region. The collected information is entered in a data base and shared with the EPA. The data are also available to the public on the TCEQ web site.
Information about Air Quality Available on TCEQ Website
The TCEQ has numerous web pages offering information to the public on air quality. Here are links to a few: