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Bi-national collaboration along Texas-Mexico Border

June 7, 2019 – Environmental leaders work on shared environmental issues

Left to right: Chihuahua Secretary of the Environment Luis Felipe Siqueiros, TCEQ Commissioner Emily Lindley, and TCEQ Executive Director Toby Baker sign a four-year memorandum of cooperation.
Left to right: Chihuahua Secretary of the Environment Luis Felipe Siqueiros, TCEQ Commissioner Emily Lindley, and TCEQ Executive Director Toby Baker sign a four-year memorandum of cooperation.
TCEQ photo

El Paso’s air quality is improving. Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, a Native American tribe, monitors air quality for the first time. A master plan is being developed for a mega park in Ciudad Juárez. All of these environmental projects were highlighted at the 74th meeting of the Joint Advisory Committee for the improvement of air quality in the Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua/El Paso, Texas/Doña Ana County, New Mexico air basin.

Review of El Paso Area Ozone Data

The question still remains: Why has the area not been able to continue the downward trend, bringing ozone down below 70 ppb in the past eight years?

Mark Sather, an environmental scientist with the EPA Region 6 Air Monitoring and Grants office, shared with the group that “while NOx [nitrogen oxide] concentrations have declined over the long term, volatile organic compound concentrations have remained level over the past 8 years in an area where some sites are now VOC limited.” Sather explains that sites that are “limited” are more sensitive to the changes in VOC concentration. More or less VOC leads to higher or lower levels of ozone. Conversely, NOx does not affect ozone levels in a “VOC limited” area.

In addition, meteorological conditions in the El Paso area have been more conducive to ozone formation over the past eight years; that’s to say, it’s been warmer with more solar radiation. Also, international transport of ambient ozone concentrations affect the metropolitan areas on both sides of the international border. See the review of El Paso area ozone and precursor air monitoring data exit Adobe Acrobat PDF Document.

Good News:

  • El Paso area 8-hour ozone design value decreased 21 ppb from 92 ppb in 1986-1988 to 71 ppb in 2008-2010.
    • 2008 8-hour ozone standard (75 ppb)
    • 2015 8-hour ozone standard (70 ppb)
  • NOx concentrations have consistently declined over the long-term at many sites.
  • VOC mean concentrations have generally remained flat since 2010.
  • Reactivity continues to decline at El Paso Chamizal site (reactivity measures the effectiveness of VOC in making ozone). The higher reactivity, the higher the ozone. The lower the reactivity, the lower the ozone.
Note the 8-hour ozone design value for El Paso in yellow as compared to other cities in Texas and the federal standard. Despite a long-term downward trend, El Paso has leveled over the past eight years and is now on the cusp of not meeting the standard.
Note the 8-hour ozone design value for El Paso in yellow as compared to other cities in Texas and the federal standard. Despite a long-term downward trend, El Paso has leveled over the past eight years and is now on the cusp of not meeting the standard.

Report on Air Quality in the El Paso Area

Carbon monoxide – definitely has improved and easily meeting the health-based standards.

Ozone – in the long-term has significantly decreased, but in the last eight years has remained steady.

Ysleta del Sur – Update Air Quality Monitoring and Assessment Project

The Xpert is a data logger that is used to transmit data and take measurements.
The Xpert is a data logger that is used to transmit data and take measurements.
Photo courtesy of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.

The tribe was awarded a TCEQ grant known as the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Air Quality Monitoring and Assessment exit Adobe Acrobat PDF Document. Under this grant the tribe:

  • Monitors online data output which serves as first-level review of air quality data.
  • Is shadowing operators from TCEQ, the city of El Paso, and Ciudad Juárez and assisting with technical issues so they can learn to do this for themselves.
  • Attended trainings on indoor air quality – a K-12 geospatial training - which focuses on teaching K-12 grade students geospatial analysis to help them understand spatial analysis and how air quality is measured.
  • Attended an air pollution technology course, and a quality assurance/quality control training course.
  • Participates in conference calls regarding updates on the Paso del Norte Region air quality with Border 2020 partners.
  • Participates in monthly meetings with the Environmental Advisory Committee in El Paso and contributes to the regional haze calls.

“The assessment project grant has given the tribe insight to other environmental programs implemented by other tribes and helped us understand the need to continue collaborating with partners in addressing air pollution,” stated Barbra Valdivieso, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo air quality coordinator.

The tribe continues to work on ambient air quality monitoring, assessing and analyzing the Paso del Norte Region’s air shed. They are active partners with environmental professionals and stakeholders to support the pueblo and provide support, community education, and outreach on recycling and waste products.

Projects across the border in Juárez supported by the JAC

The master plan of the Mega Park El Chamizal will include a reflecting pool.
The master plan of the Mega Park El Chamizal will include a reflecting pool.
Photo courtesy of Secretaria de Desarrollo Urbano y Ecología.

Mega Parque El Chamizal – focuses on the revitalization of the Chamizal Park in Juárez through the reintegration of native vegetation, reincorporating bodies of water to follow their original paths, and realizing the environmental importance of the area. The plan includes management of an urban mobility project that will add reflecting pools, ecological areas for fauna, and structures for controlling water flow. This project is one of several projects exit Adobe Acrobat PDF Document the government of Chihuahua is undertaking to address air quality. On Jan. 16, 2019, three atmospheric technical committees were installed to support ProAire, a program of the government of Chihuahua, that works to improve air quality in the state and along the border region.

The JAC will continue to work on emissions leading to ozone formation:

  • Propane and n-butane mean concentrations have increased since 2010 on the US side, including refinery sources, and remained similar on the Juárez, Mexico side.
  • Alkenes – any of the series of unsaturated hydrocarbons containing a double bond, including ethylene and propylene - have decreased in concentration; but alkanes - any of the series of saturated hydrocarbons including methane, ethane, propane, and higher members - have increased in concentration.
  • Ethane has increased from both the US side, including refinery sources, and the Juárez, Chihuahua side.
  • Overall meteorological conditions have been more conducive to ozone formation in recent years.

History of the JAC

On May 7, 1996, the United States and Mexico signed an agreement that defined the bi-national Paso del Norte Air Basin and created the committee. The JAC develops, promotes, and recommends to the Air Policy Forum exit of the Border 2020 Program planning and management strategies that seek to ensure a reduction in air pollution concentrations for public health and the welfare of residents of the Paso del Norte air basin. The JAC works collaboratively to recognize the importance of the participation of local communities in carrying out this mission.

The bi-national committee is charged with the development and recommendation of air quality improvement initiatives along the U.S.- Mexico border and has a long history of collaborating on environmental projects that have made the region’s air quality better.

The JAC exit is comprised of a mixture of federal, state, and local government officials along with private citizens, university officials, and non-governmental organizations from the United States and Mexico.

Texas and Chihuahua sign agreement to address cross-border issues

TCEQ Commissioner Emily Lindley, TCEQ Executive Director Toby Baker, and Chihuahua Secretary of the Environment Luis Felipe Siqueiros signed a four-year memorandum of cooperation exit Adobe Acrobat PDF Document, which will seek to increase the exchange of knowledge, experience, and technology related to protecting human health and the environment. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Director Carter Smith signed the agreement beforehand and was not present at the meeting.

“I am proud to collaborate with our neighbors in Chihuahua, on behalf of the State of Texas, to protect our shared environmental resources,” said Commissioner Emily Lindley.

The memorandum outlines ways that Texas and Chihuahua will work closely together on activities such as sharing best practices and maintaining productive communication on air quality, water quality, and waste management issues. As the two states and countries plan environmental programs and priorities, the agreement details coordination and partnership in cross-border issues.

“It’s a pleasure to be in El Paso with our counterparts; I’m looking forward to great collaboration with the TCEQ on environmental issues that impact the Texas-Chihuahua border,” Secretary Luis Felipe Siqueiros explained during the signing ceremony.

The last time the two states signed a memorandum of cooperation to protect shared environmental resources was in 1999.

The JAC will continue to foster partnerships and collaborative relationships that lead to a successful exchange of information and the creation of programs and activities that improve the environment in the shared region.

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