Border environmental plan seeking public comments

Binational effort to promote environmental health of the border region moves forward ... and you can take part

by Carolyn Chase
he United States Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, Department of Health and Human Services and its Mexican counterparts have announced that the Draft Border XXI Framework document is now available for public comment through July 27.
The Border XXI program is a binational interagency program aimed at protecting and improving the environment and environmental health while fostering sustainable development in the U.S./Mexico border region. Strategies that are central to the Border XXI Program include public involvement, decentralization of border decision making and increased cooperation between the different governmental agencies operating in the border region.
The main feature of Border XXI will be the coordination of many federal, state and local government agencies to deal with the themes of sustainable development, public participation, decentralization and local empowerment, regionally- based approaches and interagency cooperation.
Border XXI is not an institution itself, and Border XXI will not be replacing any existing institutions; it will just try to make them work better by integrating their operations into a long-term plan.

Working with La Paz

Border environmental cooperation between the United States and Mexico formally began with the 1983 La Paz agreement (formally called the "Agreement between the United States of America and the United Mexican States on Cooperation for the Protection and Improvement of the Environment in the Border Area.")
This agreement led to the creation of six working groups that take on joint projects: the Air Work Group, the Water Work Group, the Hazardous Waste Work Group, the Cooperative Enforcement Work Group, the Pollution Prevention Work Group and the Contingency Planning and Emergency Response Work Group. Each group has an Annual Work Plan that focuses their energies and direction. Through these work groups, the United States and Mexico are able to fund or administer projects on both sides of the border that enhance the environment of the border area and increase understanding and cooperation.
Border XXI's scope broadly includes natural resources, environment and environmental health issues. The process of refining Border XXI will include a number of domestic meetings, followed by binational meetings from which a number of documents will be created. These documents will undergo further public scrutiny and will be distributed for public comment.
The result will be the Final Border XXI Program Framework document, to be released this fall. This document that will identify the environmental priorities of the border, divided geographically, with implementation plans. These priorities will then be integrated with the annual work plans of the La Paz Work Groups for coordinated action.
This later stage will allow further public participation so that the Framework is not a stagnant document. This will be driven, in part, by the production of biannual progress reports and biannual public comment reports.
To back this all up, EPA's budget request for 1996 included $177 million for border activities (this apparently has not been directly attacked by the Republican budget ax that has been wielded so strongly against much of the EPA's enforcement budget). In addition, it can be expected that the other cooperating government agencies will contribute resources as well.

Public meetings

A series of domestic and binational public meetings were held from September through November 1995 to inform the public of the objectives of the program and the process adopted for its implementation. At that time, the public also was given an opportunity to comment on the work group objectives for the program. These comments were taken into consideration by the binational workgroups in the development of the Border XXI draft document.
To provide additional opportunity for input, the public will have 45 days from the date of release (June 13 - July 27) to comment on the Draft Border XXI Framework Document, which is the first of related documents that will be released under Border XXI.
Four additional public meetings for receiving verbal comments on the draft will be held: July 7, 6-9 pm at Southwest High School, SD; July 11, 2-5 pm at the World Trade Center, SD; July 15, 5-8 pm at Protrero (near Tecate, start time on this meeting may be changed to 6 pm); and July 19, 9 am -12 pm in Calexico. For the exact locations and more information please contact Kaare Kjos at (619) 285-1725.

Info available

The draft document is available on the EPA's home page on the WorldWide Web at
It is also available through the local EPA office:

San Diego Border Liaison Office
610 West Ash St.
Suite 703
San Diego, CA 92101
Facsimile (619) 235-4771
Telephone (619) 235-4769
email: smith.collen

To get more information on Border XXI, to learn about meetings or request documents, call the 800 number that the EPA has established for its two border offices in El Paso and San Diego. The number is (800) 334-0741.

Information for this report was provided by Mark Spalding, Chair, International Environmental Law Committee, Environmental Law Section, State Bar of California, and Adjunct Professor, Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, UCSD.