Feds Hold Meeting on Border ‘Concerns’ About the Environment

Good Neighbor Environmental Board to discuss ‘climate change resilience’

A section of border wall stands in Anzalduas Park in Mission, Texas, across the Rio Grande from Reynosa, Mexico. / AP
February 9, 2016

The federal government is holding a meeting to discuss concerns it has over the U.S.-Mexico border, focusing solely on climate change.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced the two-day meeting with the "Good Neighbor Environmental Board," an independent federal advisory committee, to talk about "climate change resilience" along the southwestern border.

"The Good Neighbor Environmental Board is holding a public meeting on Feb. 10-11, 2016, in Brownsville, Texas, to discuss the annual report on environmental and infrastructural issues along the U.S.–Mexico border region," the agency said.

"The meeting will provide an opportunity for stakeholders, local and state agencies to provide input for the group’s report focusing on climate change resilience along the border," the agency continued. "The Board meets at different locations along the border to engage with local officials and the public, gaining a better understanding of specific environmental issues impacting the people living in that community."

The Good Neighbor Environmental Board’s mission is to "advise the President and Congress of the United States on good neighbor practices along the U.S. border with Mexico."

The committee previously was concerned about extending a border fence because it could harm the environment.

"An independent federal advisory committee is urging the Obama administration to monitor the environmental impact of U.S. border fence and take steps to restore damaged areas," the San Diego Tribune reported in 2009.

The group sent a letter to the Obama administration making recommendations for "protecting the environment along the 1,951-mile U.S.-Mexico border as the fence is extended in several areas."

"We feel that the Obama administration is very open to hearing about environmental concerns of the border region," the board said. "We’re taking this opportunity to convey our advice on what we feel is a critical environmental issue."

The board sent another letter to President Obama in December with their concerns about "adverse environmental impacts from climate change risks in the border region."

The letter expressed worries about "diverse challenges posed by a changing climate" at the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Much as the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER) highlighted the Arctic as an example of global climate change risks, the climate change-related stresses and risks along the U.S.-Mexico border illustrate the diversity of the ecological, social, and economic issues that climate change poses for the entire country," the board said.

"What is happening along the border today may be a window to what will happen in the rest of the nation," they added.

Among the board’s recommendations for the border were to "promote and incentivize green infrastructure and prioritize its financing" and "convene stakeholders from both sides of the border to share information on responses to threats to water supplies."

Rob Curry, the EPA’s regional administrator for Region 6, will lead the border meeting, which begins Wednesday. Curry previously worked in New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s (D.) administration, where he developed the "Environmental Justice Executive Order" Richardson signed in 2005.

The meeting will also include Jesús Gónzález Macías, a delegate for Mexico’s environment ministry and member of the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico.