TCEQ Must Stop Blaming Mexico For El Paso Air Quality

Organizations And Individuals Call For Meaningful Action to Reduce Pollution

EL PASO, TEXAS / LAS CRUCES, NEW MEXICO-- Recently, a coalition of environmental and community groups–including Sierra Club, Environmental Integrity Project, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, Chaparral Community Coalition for Health and Environment, Familias Unidas del Chamizal, Earthworks, Sunrise El Paso, and Sunset Heights Neighborhood Improvement Association–filed comments with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), calling on TCEQ to take action to clean up air pollution in El Paso, rather than trying to escape responsibility by blaming Mexico.

The coalition submitted the comments in response to a petition prepared by TCEQ, which asserts that nearby areas of Mexico are the primary cause of rising ozone levels in El Paso, and asks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to grant Texas a waiver from imposing additional pollution control requirements on Texas sources. The Clean Air Act allows EPA to grant such a waiver in limited circumstances. However, TCEQ’s own analysis shows that Texas is contributing more than Mexico to El Paso’s ozone problem, making a waiver inappropriate here.

After receiving the coalition’s comments, TCEQ doubled down on its refusal to implement EPA’s safeguards for ozone pollution, and instead filed a lawsuit attempting to overturn EPA’s decision to designate the El Paso area as failing to meet the ozone standard. The coalition expects to intervene to oppose TCEQ’s lawsuit, and to continue pushing state and federal regulators to take meaningful action to reduce pollution levels in west Texas. 

Miguel Escoto, an organizer with Earthworks who lives in El Paso, said, "TCEQ acts like our terrible air quality is one big complex puzzle which they'd like to keep blaming on Juarez. It's no mystery at all: There are three massive fracked gas plants and an enormous refinery pumping toxins into our atmosphere, and the ever growing presence of semi truck traffic on El Paso’s highways. TCEQ must start regulating these El Paso polluters instead of playing the blame game."

Dave Cortez, Director of the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter said, “This generations-old trope of Texas blaming Mexico for its problems is racism that fronterizas know all too well. Whether it was Asarco or Marathon's refinery, formerly owned by Paul Foster, TCEQ has a history of prioritizing the wealth of polluters over the health of El Pasoans. We need strong ozone pollution protections, and we need EPA Region 6 Administrator Dr. Nance’s help to intervene and put an end to this legacy of environmental racism facilitated by TCEQ.”

David Baake, a local attorney who prepared the comments, said, “The evidence shows that Texas–not Mexico–is the biggest contributor to our ozone problem. It is time for TCEQ to stop dragging its feet and take responsibility for cutting emissions, so that everyone in the borderlands can breathe easier. Unfortunately, it appears the agency has chosen to waste taxpayer money by filing a meritless lawsuit instead.”

Laurence Gibson, El Paso Group chair of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, said, “This is not complicated. One EPA Region 6 state, Texas, is polluting another Region 6 state, New Mexico. EPA Region 6 needs to do its job and step in.”

Hilda Villegas, Familias Unidas del Chamizal, said, “Our neighborhood is treated like a dumping ground and it took us bringing a lawsuit to produce the facts. There is no one in the state of Texas looking out for our community when it comes to environmental hazards. Since NAFTA, our community has been heavily burdened with international trade truck traffic and international industrial waste facilities, and no one accounts for the health or safety of the 7000+ residents that live in Barrio Chamizal, a predominantly Spanish-speaking, immigrant community. The compounding polluting industries–on either side of the border–are U.S. owned and should be held responsible.” 


About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit

About The Environmental Integrity Project

The Environmental Integrity Project is a 19-year-old, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policy to protect public health and the environment. For more information, visit

About Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid

Founded in 1970 to represent Texas farmworkers, TRLA has grown into the nation’s second largest legal aid provider and the largest in Texas. TRLA provides free civil legal services to residents in 68 Southwest Texas counties, and represents migrant and seasonal farm workers throughout the state and in six other southern states. TRLA also operates public defender programs that serve at least 10 Texas counties, representing low-income and indigent people accused of felonies, misdemeanors, and juvenile crimes. TRLA serves about 23,000 clients each year. For more information, visit

About Chaparral Community Coalition for Health and Environment

The Chaparral Community Coalition For Health and the Environment includes people who live within two miles of the proposed plant in New Mexico and oppose the expansion of the power plant, citing health concerns for an area that’s already under scrutiny for air pollution. 

About Familias Unidas del Chamizal

Familias Unidas del Chamizal is a community organization in El Paso, TX that works to increase awareness around the issues of education, environmental racism, development, and public health. Working to organize families in the Barrio, Chamizal to develop a community that can defend itself and in which residents can work together to solve major problems they face. For more information, visit

About Earthworks

Earthworks is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while promoting sustainable solutions. For more information, visit

About Sunrise El Paso

The Sunrise Movement is a youth movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process. For more information, visit

About The Sunset Heights Neighborhood Improvement Association

Sunset Heights Neighborhood Improvement Association is dedicated to serving the residents of Sunset Heights Historic District, those in surrounding neighborhoods & districts & anyone who would love to see El Paso's oldest planned community be maintained. For more information, visit