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U.S. and Mexico Agree to Proceed with Air Pollution Studies

Release Date: 11/17/1998
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

    On Nov. 3, 1998, high-level officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Park Service and Mexico's environmental enforcement agency, PROFEPA, met in Mexico City and agreed to final release within 30 days of the joint Big Bend Visibility Preliminary Study on transboundary air pollution. The two countries agreed not only to release a report from the 1996 study, but to proceed with the next comprehensive study, known as the Big Bend Aerosol and Visibility Observational Study (BRAVO) to determine the extent and sources of air pollution over Bend National Park. They also reaffirmed a 1993 commitment by EPA Administrator Carol Browner and then Mexican Environmental Secretary Luis Donaldo Colosio to "develop bilateral measures to preserve air quality and to address existing situations of substantial air quality degradation including visibility problems at Big Bend National Park." Compliance with this commitment will ensure that the Big Bend National Park remains a unique and beautiful place for future generations to enjoy.

     The report will provide the results of preliminary information collection on pollutant gradients over a rather broad area of Texas and northern Mexico to assist both governments in the design of BRAVO, which is meant to identify the causes of visibility impairment at the Big Bend National Park. The United States and Mexico have obtained different analytical results for this report from the application of different criteria to the analysis of meteorological data. Rather than delay issuance of the Phase I Preliminary Report any longer, the parties agreed to include separate appendices which include each sides' meteorological data. Mexico has also been concerned that its industries (primarily coal-fired power plants within the official 100 kilometer border zone) were unfairly singled out. Data now indicate that additional sources, on both sides of the border, may be responsible for the visibility impairment at Big Bend. Further details should come to light about sources and their percentage contribution to air pollution when BRAVO is
completed.                      

     The parties have also agreed to give the State of Texas the opportunity to participate in the technical planing for BRAVO. Texas had begun initial air pollution studies on its own earlier this year. Data from those studies will be taken into account during the next phase of the study.

     State environmental groups, particularly the Texas Center for Policy Studies, were instrumental in keeping attention focused on this issue. The Environmental Defense Fund, the Big Bend and Texas chapters of the Sierra Club, and other citizens' groups actively encouraged agencies on both sides of the border to proceed with the BRAVO studies. These groups ensure that the concerns of citizens about air quality in Big Bend are not forgotten.

     The public has become increasingly aware that pollutants do not recognize political boundaries and that citizens in both the United States and Mexico are affected by migrating pollution. The agreement reached last week ensures that both countries will continue working together to complete these important air quality studies and to explore effective measures to improve air quality. The accord highlights Mexico's commitment to improving our shared environment.

     Both today's announcement and Texas' decision not to permit a low-level radioactive waste site near Sierra Blanca, Texas, demonstrate a true commitment by state, federal and citizens' groups to solving public health and environmental problems along the Unites States- Mexico border. The Regional Administrator of Region 6, Mr. Gregg Cooke said, "During a recent camping trip in the Park, I was reminded of the importance of this natural resource to our great state. Environmental protection of Big Bend's resources is critical. I am happy to be a part of the ongoing binational effort to protect both the Park and the health of local citizens."

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