The Paso del Norte area is a unique binational community of approximately
2 million people. Located between the Franklin Mountains
and Sierras de Juárez, the Paso del Norte air basin is
comprised of three political jurisdictions: El Paso, Texas; Doña
Ana County, New Mexico; and Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua.
The Rio Grande/Rio Bravo which flows south from its headwaters
in southern Colorado defines most of the border between
the U.S. and Mexico within the boundaries of the Paso del Norte
community. Topography, meteorology, economic and population
pressures all combine to influence the quality of the air all
Paso del Norte residents breathe. U.S. and Mexican health-based
air quality standards are frequently exceeded in the Paso del
Norte air basin posing a risk to sensitive individuals such as
children, the elderly, and those with cardiovascular and lung
disease. Recent evidence indicates that long-term exposures
to these air pollutants threatens even healthy individuals.
Because air pollution knows no political boundaries, the binational,
tri-state nature of this region poses a significant challenge
to the community in addressing its shared air pollution problem.
As a result of the grassroots organizing efforts of the Paso del
Norte Air Quality Task Force (PdNAQTF), the Joint Advisory Committee
for the Improvement of Air Quality in the Ciudad Juárez,
Chihuahua, El Paso, Texas, and Doña Ana County, New Mexico
Air Basin (JAC) was established in 1996 to provide the local community
with the means to participate as partners in the improvement of
air quality in the Paso del Norte region. The air basin
is defined as the geographic area that includes El Paso County,
Texas, and those parts of Doña Ana County New Mexico and
the metropolitan area of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua that
are within 100 km of the border.The JAC is a binational committee
made up of private citizens, private sector representatives,
university officials, federal, state, and local government officials,
and non-governmental environmental and public health organizations.
The JAC is charged with the development and recommendation of
air quality improvement projects and programs to the Air Work
Group established under the 1983 U.S.-Mexico La Paz Agreement.
The JAC serves as the local community-based organization overseeing
the process to achieve cleaner air for the Paso del Norte region.
There are limited personnel and financial resources to address
air quality problems in the Paso del Norte air basin. In
order to leverage resources, to not duplicate ongoing efforts,
but to build upon them, the JAC discussed the need to focus the
activities of the group towards those areas with the greatest
"bang for the buck". The JAC therefore agreed to develop
a strategic plan to decide how the JAC could contribute the greatest
"value added" to air quality improvement. A Strategic Plan
Technical Commission(SPTC) was formed to organize and guide the
development process. This process has been conducted openly
with representation from all sectors of the Paso del Norte community
and progress reports have been presented at regular meetings of
the JAC. The resulting strategic plan outlines the JAC's mission,
goals and objectives and addresses priority air quality planning
and management issues and proposes specific actions the JAC recommends
that the Air Work Group undertake.