Formed by Congress in 1992, the Good Neighbor Environment Board’s legal mandate is to report to the President and Congress on border environmental infrastructure challenges for the United States. This independent federal advisory committee is made up of state and local officials, academics and members of the community and is managed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Since its inception, it has produced some outstanding reports on various aspects of the border environment, including this year’s report on border energy, Energy Production, Transportation and Demand in the Transborder Region: Opportunities and Impacts.
The report’s executive summary should be required reading for all citizens with an interest in the U.S.-Mexico border region and its prospects for sustainability and economic development:
The U.S.-Mexico border region has a hot, dry climate. Changing climate is projected to cause increasing temperatures, decrease total precipitation, decrease streamflow, produce more extreme weather events, cause more frequent and intense wildfires, and drive sea-level rise and more intense storm surges in this region. These changes are expected to affect not only the natural environment, but also the economy and other human systems, including the energy sector. The existing energy infrastructure was designed to perform well under certain historical conditions and may no longer be able to cope with the expected changes in temperature, precipitation, wildfires, hurricanes and sea-level rise. (page xi)
Key data points from the report regarding the U.S.-Mexico border region include the following:
- By 2020, the border population is projected to reach 5 million.
- There are 26 federally recognized Native American tribes in the border region.
- In 2015, 82 percent of the population of the border counties was Hispanic, excluding San Diego (California) and Pima (Arizona) counties, where the percentages were 9 and 37.3 percent, respectively.
- The 24 U.S. counties bordering Mexico (again excepting San Diego and Pima counties), if considered a state, would rank 51st—or dead last among U.S. states—in poverty rate, percentage of persons under 65 without health insurance, percentage of high school or higher graduates, and per capita income.
The comprehensive report details such aspects as the border’s socio-economic and environmental context, an overview of the U.S. energy sector, an overview of the Mexican energy sector, crossborder energy relations, border energy and the USMCA and energy trade and investment.
Recommendations include supporting research on a wide variety of aspects related to border energy, establishing a regional energy planning process, supporting export of petroleum products to Mexico and fostering the development of renewable energy, among others.
I was pleased to be a member of the Board for 2018-2020 and I applaud Board Chair Paul Ganster and the other members of the board for their work in producing such a timely and detailed report to help ground important public policy discussions on crossborder energy and sustainability.