U.S., Mexico Announce Plans to Improve Border Environment

Published February 1, 2004

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the framework for a landmark environmental protection agreement between the U.S. and Mexico.

According to Border 2012 plans published by EPA in the December 16 Federal Register, the two nations will cooperate to achieve major environmental improvements in an area 63 miles on either side of the international boundary, extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean.

Officials from both countries assert that booming population growth in the border region has created environmental issues of growing concern. According to EPA, population growth in the U.S. portion of the border region is more than 40 percent higher than population growth in the rest of the country. Mexico reports similar growth in its portion of the border region.

The Border 2012 framework identifies waterborne diseases, agricultural runoff, inadequate sewage treatment, mismanagement of pesticides, and illegal dumping of waste as the most pressing environment problems in the region.

To combat water pollution, the U.S. and Mexico will put in place a monitoring system for 10 percent of all drinking water systems in the border region by 2005 and all navigable waters in the region by 2006.

The Border 2012 framework also directs the U.S. and Mexico to:

  • set specific air pollution emissions reduction goals by 2004;
  • train 36,000 migrant farm workers on how to properly handle agricultural pesticides;
  • develop in 2004 a plan for cleaning up hazardous waste sites as required by Mexican and U.S. law;
  • integrate their waste tracking systems by 2006;
  • implement joint chemical emergency response plans in all border cities by 2008; and
  • by 2010, close and clean up the three largest tire dumps along the border.

Stated EPA, “The 10-year Border 2012 program emphasizes a bottom-up, regional approach, anticipating that local decision-making, priority-setting, and project implementation will best address environmental issues in the border region. It brings together a wide variety of stakeholders to produce prioritized and sustained actions that consider the environmental needs of the different border communities.”

To ensure compliance with the agreement, EPA and the Mexican Secretariat for the Environment and Natural Resources will jointly create and oversee four regional environmental workgroups. The workgroups will oversee border issues in the California-Baja international region, the Arizona-Sonora region, the New Mexico-Texas-Chihuahua region, and the Texas-Coahuila-Nuevo Leon-Tamaulipas region.

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. His email address is [email protected].