For decades, the threat posed by air pollution in the El Paso region has challenged stakeholders on both sides of the border, thwarting growth in the two countries’ interlocked economies.
The El Paso Air Basin, a bowl-shaped desert region defined by the Rio Grande and mountainous terrain, 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.
Specifically, what’s been missing is a central fund with resources dedicated to financing continuous air quality monitoring – critical information needed for detecting pollution hotspots.
TCEQ recently announced its participation in a first-of-its-kind Binational Air Monitoring Fund, an innovative program explicitly formed to resolve this longstanding problem by ensuring ongoing air monitoring throughout the Basin.
The fund is managed by the North American Development Bank, established in 1993 by the U.S. and Mexico to facilitate financing, construction, and operation of environmental infrastructure projects in the border region. Given its binational composition, NADBANK is ideally suited to manage this new program.
The fund is governed by the Joint Advisory Committee, a community-based organization that oversees efforts to achieve cleaner air for the Paso del Norte region.
TCEQ Commissioner Bobby Janecka has been an integral force in the formation of the agreement and creation of the fund, working closely with officials on both sides of the border.
Janecka joined representatives of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua; El Paso, Texas; and Doña Ana County, New Mexico on May 7 at a ceremony commemorating the JAC’s 25th anniversary.
Eddie Moderow, Border Affairs Manager for TCEQ, says continuous monitoring will help identify sources of emissions.
“The fund is a mechanism for entities to work together,” Moderow says, adding that it represents an opportunity for industry leaders and local businesses to invest in their communities, removing longstanding barriers to development. “It allows us to leverage resources from both countries through a public-private partnership – something that has been needed for a long time.”
Air pollution knows no borders, of course, which makes the new fund especially significant.
“It lays out a vision for a single Air Basin, and allows us to collaborate,” Moderow says, adding that TCEQ hopes the agreement will be an incentive for future alliances and binational collaboration.