International Environment:

Environmental Infrastructure Needs in the U.S.-Mexican Border Region Remain Unmet

RCED-96-179: Published: Jul 22, 1996. Publicly Released: Aug 5, 1996.

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GAO provided information on the U.S.-Mexican border region's unmet environmental infrastructure needs, focusing on: (1) the financial and institutional challenges facing the United States and Mexico; and (2) how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies and prioritizes funding for environmental problems along the U.S.-Mexican border.

GAO found that: (1) many environmental infrastructure needs remain unmet on both sides of the border; (2) these needs are particularly acute on the Mexican side of the border, where the basic infrastructure is ill equipped to handle sewage collection, wastewater treatment, and solid waste disposal; (3) some Mexican communities need to expand the capacity of their infrastructure to meet ever-increasing population demands and industrial growth; (4) the Mexican border region has the capacity to treat 34 percent of its wastewater; (5) the border communities in Texas have the capacity to meet their solid waste disposal needs for at least 10 years; (6) EPA has spent approximately $520 million to help address pollution problems along the U.S.-Mexican border, but it has not developed agencywide criteria to ensure that its resources target the region's highest-priority needs; (7) communities on both sides of the border lack experience in planning public works projects, as well as the financial capacity to fund these projects; (8) the North American Development Bank provides financing for environmental infrastructure projects by securing equity, grants, and other sources of funding on a project-by-project basis; and (9) the Border XXI Program provides information on how to improve environmental conditions along the U.S.-Mexican border, develop environmental indicators, expand public participation, and address environmental health concerns.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has taken several actions to use the inventory of environmental data for the border region to establish criteria to ensure that the highest-priority needs are addressed.

    Recommendation: To ensure that EPA funding for border-related activities addresses the region's highest-priority environmental needs, the Administrator, EPA, should work with key federal entities in the United States and Mexico that are involved in developing and implementing the U.S./Mexico Border XXI Program to ensure that the program includes specific plans to use the inventory of all environmental data for the border region to establish criteria within, as well as across, the nine binational workgroups (taking into account the relative risks to human health and the environment).

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has taken several actions to plan activities to ensure that the highest-priority projects are addressed.

    Recommendation: To ensure that EPA funding for border-related activities addresses the region's highest-priority environmental needs, the Administrator, EPA, should work with key federal entities in the United States and Mexico that are involved in developing and implementing the U.S./Mexico Border XXI Program to ensure that the program includes specific plans to set priorities within and across the binational workgroups according to the established criteria.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has developed environmental indicators for efforts in the border region and is committed to track performance based on the indicators.

    Recommendation: To ensure that EPA funding for border-related activities addresses the region's highest-priority environmental needs, the Administrator, EPA, should work with key federal entities in the United States and Mexico that are involved in developing and implementing the U.S./Mexico Border XXI Program to ensure that the program includes specific plans to clearly link the priority activities chosen for funding to environmental indicators.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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