Texas Pushes Back Against Smog Designation for El Paso
In November, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that El Paso, Texas was failing to meet smog standards set out by the Environmental Protection Agency. Now, Texas is pushing back. The Texas Attorney General’s office along with TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) are petitioning to have the EPA change El Paso’s designation from “nonattainment”. The Nonattainment status means El Paso is subject to tighter (and more expensive) environmental regulations.
During the four years of the Trump administration, numerous counties in the Southwest and Midwest were listed as “in compliance” with EPA standards, even though they were not. A lawsuit from various environmental groups convinced the D.C. Circuit Court that these counties should be downgraded. That’s how El Paso County ended up with the “nonattainment” designation. AND, the EPA is already planning to downgrade El Paso’s standing even more.
Here’s the argument from TCEQ and A.G. Ken Paxton’s office: yes, El Paso is NOT in compliance with EPA standards for ozone, also known as “smog." You know how sometimes, especially in the summer, if you’re looking at downtown El Paso from the Eastside you can’t really SEE the buildings? It’s not supposed to look like that according to the EPA. BUT, TCEQ and the Attorney General argue, El Paso can’t be held fully responsible because, you know…Juarez is RIGHT THERE.
Environmental groups aren’t all buying it, though. The El Paso Times quoted an organizer with the nonprofit Earthworks as saying, “TCEQ must start regulating these El Paso polluters instead of playing the blame game." The president of the Lone Star Sierra Club called it “environmental racism” for suggesting that some of El Paso’s smog problem is because of proximity to Juarez.
Is it “environmental racism” to ask for some acknowledgment that El Paso shares its air with Juarez, a city of almost 2 million that doesn’t have to answer to ANY U.S. environmental guidelines? There’s no wall that could be built to keep out prevailing winds from our Sister City across the Rio Grande.