[identity profile] ikkeikke.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] dhlc
I was lax this week with the cheerful articles. But I'm back.

Texas Observer
Political Intelligence:
Linky here

They steal across the border in broad daylight, bound for Texas and points beyond. Wherever these border-crossers end up, they plan on staying for a long, long time. Although they are dangerous and possibly sin papeles, even the Minutemen, those infamous border vigilantes, are ignoring them. These Mexican invaders aren’t people, but shipments of hazardous waste. And they flow into the United States with increasingly lax oversight from the federal and state government.

Under an environmental agreement signed during the Reagan administration and reinforced by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S. must accept waste generated at Mexican maquiladoras for disposal here—111,000 tons in 2002. Much of the hazardous waste—benzene and the pesticide heptachlor, for example—ends up in landfills near the border, such as a BFI facility near Harlingen. Thousands of tons are also trucked out of state to far-flung sites in South Carolina, Minnesota, and other states.

The government’s weak system for monitoring and inspecting these truckloads of waste has become even more threadbare the past two years. In 2003, the Bush EPA eliminated HAZTRAKS, the only national database for tracking waste from “cradle to grave.” The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) used the system to make sure the waste was sent where it was supposed to go and to take action against companies not following the rules. Eliminating HAZTRAKS has left “the U.S. with no specific plan to track hazardous wastes imported from Mexico,” wrote the authors of a 2004 report by the Texas Center for Policy Studies, which examined gaps in the regulation of hazardous waste shipments.

In a double whammy, the Department of Homeland Security has booted environmental inspectors off ports of entry such as Brownsville and Laredo, citing homeland security concerns. That’s left U.S. Customs employees inspecting trucks transporting hazardous materials rather than TCEQ experts. “Our guys are basically focused full time on hazardous and solid waste; that’s what they do for a living,” said Steve Niemeyer, a policy analyst with the TCEQ. “It just makes sense that our folks would have more expertise.” TCEQ inspected 9,600 trucks in 2003, the last year such inspections were done by the agency. Now, TCEQ has little idea of how many trucks transporting hazardous materials cross the border.

The prospect that poisonous chemicals may be slipping through the border and ending up in vast illegal dumping grounds prompted state Rep. Norma Chavez (D-El Paso) to file a bill during the 2005 legislative session to put TCEQ inspectors back on the border. “Where NAFTA may have some benefits it shouldn’t be at the expense of the environment along the Texas-Mexico border,” said Chavez. “When you’re not inspecting and you’re not tracking where the hazardous waste is going, we’re asking for trouble down the road.” Chavez’s bill died in the House Committee on Environmental Regulation.

Meanwhile, the Minutemen are patrolling the Texas-Mexico border, looking for “illegals” and chastising the government for not doing its job. It seems it will take Eco-men and women to deal with the hazardous waste problem. Chris Simcox, President of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, said through a spokesperson, “It’s not something the Minutemen are focused on right now in that their focus is on the illegal crossings … As a general comment, [Simcox] hopes that the federal government is doing their job to protect the American people.”

Date: 2008-05-14 07:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] richdonnel.livejournal.com
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