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Release Date: 12/12/96
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The United States and Mexico have agreed to expand binational efforts to address environmental, public health and natural resources problems faced by more than 10 million people who live on both sides of the border.

A new five-year program, "Border XXI," has been established by four U.S. agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, and two Mexican agencies, the Secretariat of Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries and the Secretariat of Health.

"Because polluted air, land and water know no boundaries, our nations are expanding efforts to protect the environment, health and natural resources for communities on the U.S. and Mexican sides of the border," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. "Our goal is to help make border communities safer and cleaner, especially for children."

Three pillar principles of the plan expand upon previous efforts to improve the border situation:

    expanded plans for public participation in both planning and implementation;
    greater involvement of tribal nations and state agencies;
    enhanced coordination and integration of effort among federal agencies and between federal and state agencies.
The program's objectives are extensive and are outlined in the final "U.S.-Mexico Border XXI Framework Document." They include:
    reduce and respond to health problems arising from exposure to chemical, physical and biological agents, working in conjunction with state, tribal and local health, environmental and agricultural agencies;
    build or upgrade wastewater and drinking water systems;
    reduce air pollution in innovative ways, including expansion of monitoring and control programs;
    improve cross-border collaboration between natural resource and public health entities;
    expand the tracking program for shipments of hazardous and toxic substances across the border;
    promote economic incentive programs for reducing pollution more quickly and cost-effectively;
    promote pollution prevention and recycling in cooperation with industries;
    improve emergency response procedures including free movement of equipment and personnel across the border (in both directions) to deal with chemical emergencies;

    improve and expand protection of species and habitat along the border;
    intensify enforcement of the environmental and health protection laws of both countries and,
    increase public accessibility to desired information, including environmental data.
Reflecting the dynamics of the area, the innovative and flexible program will continue to evolve while addressing the increasingly difficult problems brought on by rapid population and industrial growth in the region, an area extending for almost 2,000 miles and 62 miles on each side of the border. The region encompasses parts of four U.S. states (California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas) and six Mexican states (Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas).

"The increased partnership and public participation will expand efforts to improve the environment and health on our shared border. The lives of the people on the border are certain to benefit from the integrated efforts of all responsible parties involved in environmental, natural resource and health matters in both countries," said Browner.

Annual reviews of the program will include a reassessment of priorities and implementation plans developed by nine workgroups, progress made toward meeting the five-year goals and development of needed new projects. In conjunction with these reviews, comments will be solicited from public advisory boards. A biennial public comment period is planned to assure further community input.

Building on a long history of bilateral cooperation, the new plan aims to achieve sustainable development along the border by integrating the work of institutions created under the North America Free Trade Agreement and its environmental side agreement, the Border Environment Cooperation Commission, the North American Development Bank, and Commission for Environmental Cooperation, as well as the International Boundary and Water Commission.

The need to focus on regional solutions prompted the organization of the plan into five bilateral regions, California-Baja California, Arizona-Sonora, New Mexico-Texas-Chihuahua, Texas-Coahuila-Nuevo Leon, and Texas-Tamaulipas.

The plan reflects resolutions made at the last meeting of the U.S./Mexico environmental commission of the 10 border states concerning binational cooperation on economic growth and environmental issues.

The "U.S.-Mexico Border XXI Framework Document", with the Executive Summary and the working groups' 1996 Implementation Plans, is available on the U.S.-Mexico Home Page at For further information, call 1-

800-334-0741. Copies also are available from EPA's Border Offices: 610 West Ash St., Suite 703 (Att: Border XXI) San Diego, Calif., 92101, phone 619-235-4765; and 4050 Rio Bravo, Suite 100 (Att: Border XXI ) El Paso, Texas 79902, phone 915-533-7273.

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