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TCEQ at Forefront of Binational Agreement to Foster Continuous Monitoring Throughout El Paso Air Basin

Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021 - Air Monitoring Data Will Help Identify Environmental Hotspots, Direct Containment Strategies
ContactGary Rasp
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AUSTIN – Efforts to address pollution in the El Paso Air Basin through continuous air quality monitoring took a major stride forward Thursday with creation of a new, binational fund spearheaded by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Formed under the aegis of the Joint Advisory CommitteeExit the TCEQ, the new binational fund will foster air quality projects throughout the region, with particular focus on reestablishing air monitoring stations in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, where generation of reliable data has suffered from sporadic funding and aging equipment.

Data derived from ongoing air monitoring will help identify pollutant trends, model ozone formation and—regardless of where pollution originates—direct targeted curtailment strategies and investment in effective pollution controls.

Together with his counterparts in Chihuahua and New Mexico, TCEQ Commissioner Bobby Janecka introduced a resolution establishing the Binational Air Monitoring Fund today during a virtual meeting of the JAC.

The fund will be managed by the North American Development BankExit the TCEQ, established in 1993 by the U.S. and Mexico to facilitate financing, construction, operation, and maintenance of environmental infrastructure projects in the border region.

“Given its binational composition, NADBANK is ideally suited to manage this innovative new program,” said Janecka, adding that “the border region is a top priority for TCEQ.”

NADBANK and TCEQ will make the initial investment to create the fund, and the JAC will set up governance committees to make decisions about how funds are spent, under a clear set of guidelines. Public and private sector stakeholders can then contribute to the program, which will be managed in a transparent manner by NADBANK and the JAC respective of states’ sovereignty and jurisdiction.

The El Paso Air Basin is a bowl-shaped desert region defined by the Rio Grande River and mountainous terrain that encompasses two countries, three states, multiple municipalities, a federally recognized Native American tribe, and some 2.7 million people. It resides within the Paso del Norte—the historic overland trade route between the Pacific and Atlantic coasts—a critical nexus of material resources, capital, labor, and culture, connecting major markets within North America.

The unique conditions of the Basin’s topography make it difficult to pinpoint sources of pollution produced by robust industrial activity, as well as tailpipe emissions from diesel-fueled trucks and the many passenger vehicles that idle for hours while waiting to cross the border.

For decades, stakeholders on both sides of the border have tried to address the threat that air pollution poses to the region, but the problem has persisted.

What’s been missing, Janecka said, is a central fund with resources dedicated to financing continuous air quality monitoring, critical information needed for detecting pollution hotspots.

“Air quality data collected from the entire Air Basin will enable policymakers to make the right decisions to protect public health and invest in a brighter future,” he said.

With more than 1,240 miles of a shared border with Mexico, the environmental health of the region is a priority for Texas, Janecka said, noting that TCEQ manages a broad-based effort to serve border residents under the TCEQ Border Initiative, and is a partner in Border 2020Exit the TCEQ, a program that outlines key areas for environmental cooperation between the two countries.