Bill aims to reduce U.S.-Mexico border pollution

March 5, 2021
Designates EPA as lead federal agency to address border pollution problems

Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, both Democrats from California, recently introduced the Border Water Quality Restoration and Protection Act, a bill to reduce pollution along the U.S.-Mexico border and improve the water quality of the Tijuana and New rivers.

The bill would designate the Environmental Protection Agency as the lead agency to coordinate all federal, state and local agencies to build and maintain needed infrastructure projects to decrease pollution along the border.

Representatives Juan Vargas, Scott Peters, Mike Levin, Sara Jacobs, Darrell Issa and Raul Ruiz plan to introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Toxic sewage and waste has flowed into the United States from Mexico for years because federal agencies haven’t stepped up to deal with the problem,” said Senator Feinstein. “The people of Southern California have been forced to suffer while different federal agencies keep passing the buck. This bill will put an end to the confusion by putting the EPA in charge of coordinating efforts and fixing the problem. I’m grateful to the Government Accountability Office for its detailed and informative report on this long-standing issue that must be addressed now.”

“For too long, toxic waste and raw sewage has flowed across the border into Southern California, polluting our air and water and depriving border communities of outdoor recreation and economic opportunities,” said Senator Padilla. “While federal agencies have largely ignored this problem, the health and safety of our coastal communities remains threatened. That’s why I’m joining Senator Feinstein to introduce the Border Water Quality Restoration and Protection Act to direct the EPA to take the lead in finally addressing the Tijuana River pollution problem.”

“The biggest challenge in addressing this environmental and public health crisis is that a majority of the pollution results from transboundary flows. Addressing cross-border pollution in our region requires strong communication between agencies – from both sides of the border,” said Representative Vargas.  “We need a lead agency to coordinate efforts between federal, state, local and Mexican entities to properly establish infrastructure and restoration programs to help address this decades-old problem.”

The Border Water Quality Restoration and Protection Act is supported by the California Environmental Protection Agency; the California Natural Resources Agency; San Diego and Imperial counties; the cities of San Diego, Imperial Beach and Coronado; Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas; the Port of San Diego; the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce; and WILDCOAST.

Based on recommendations from a Government Accountability Office report requested by Senator Feinstein that was released last year, the bill would:

Designate the EPA as the lead agency to address border pollution along the U.S.-Mexico Border and improve water quality of the Tijuana and New rivers entering the United States.

Require the EPA, along with its federal, state and local partners, to identify a list of priority projects and would authorize EPA to accept and distribute federal, state, and local funds to build, operate and maintain those projects.

Codify the existing Border Water Infrastructure Program to manage stormwater runoff and water reuse projects.

Require the International Boundary and Water Commission to participate in the construction of projects identified in the Tijuana and New rivers’ comprehensive plans and specifically authorizes the commission to address stormwater.

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