Detailed Meeting Minutes Washington DC 2003
GOOD NEIGHBOR ENVIRONMENTAL BOARD
Environmental Protection Agency
Good Neighbor Environmental Board Meeting
February 18-19, 2003
SUMMARY OF SESSION
Tuesday, February 18, 2003 (2:00 p.m.)
The Good Neighbor Environmental Board met on Tuesday, February 18, 2003 at the Hotel Washington in Washington, D.C. Chairperson Placido dos Santos convened the meeting at 2:00 p.m. Elaine Koerner, designated federal officer, thanked the members of the board who were able to attend the meeting in person, as well as those unable to attend due to a major snowstorm in the Washington area, but connected through a conference call. The conference call necessarily shortened the planned daylong meeting to one of only a couple hours.
Good Neighbor Environmental Board members present: Chairperson Placido dos Santos (Arizona Department of Environmental Quality), David Batson (EPA),* Karen Chapman (Environmental Defense Fund), Irasema Coronado (University of Texas), William Fry (H-E-B Grocery Company),* Paul Ganster (San Diego State University),Valecia Gavin (Fairacres, New Mexico),* John Klein (U.S. Geological Survey),* Dennis Linskey (U.S. Department of State),* Ed Ranger (LexRadar, Inc.),* Diane Rose (mayor, City of Imperial Beach),* Jerry Paz (Molzen-Corbin & Associates), Nancy Sutley (California EPA), Richard Walling (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), * Nancy Woo (EPA Region 9).* and Laura Yoshii (EPA, Region 9).*
EPA staff present: Designated Federal Officer Elaine Koerner (EPA, Region 9),, Daiva Balkus (GNEB), Oscar Carrillo (GNEB), and Mark Joyce (EPA)*
Others: * Jorge Garces (North American Development Bank or NADB), Manuel Aldernak (U.S. Department of Agriculture),* and James Stefanov (International Boundary and Water Commission).*
* Indicates those linked through a conference call.
Elaine Koerner, designated federal officer from EPA Region 9, provided an update on progress on the sixth report. Her staff is sending out sections of the report for review on a staggered schedule, which also staggers the deadlines for comments. Board members are now reviewing the sections on health and power plants, which have turned out to be strong documents. They will shortly receive the water section, then, soon after, the natural resources/conservation section, followed by other sections in the next couple of weeks. The sixth report will be published as soon as possible.
Placido dos Santos, GNEB chairperson, started a general orientation to the meeting by identifying those present in the room and on the line through the conference call. He also welcomed new members to the board: Paul Ganster (San Diego University), Douglas Smith (Sony Electronics, San Diego), Amanda Aguirre (Yuma, Arizona), Dora Alcala (mayor, Del Rio, Texas), and Kenneth Ramirez (Bracewell & Patterson, Austin, Texas). Mr. dos Santos then introduced David Batson from EPA, a professional mediator, who served as facilitator during Tuesday afternoon's discussions.
Mr. Batson suggested, given the limited time allowed by the conference call, that those scheduled to make presentations make them short and appropriate. These were to include updates on Border 2012 by Laura Yoshii (EPA Region 9), a border forecast by Jorge Garces (NADB), and update on Consejo activities by Oscar Carrillo (GNEB). The meeting would then move on to discuss strategic planning, specifically GNEB's 2003 vision, goals, and activities, as outlined in the work grid handout.
Mr. Batson then suggested that they move on to discuss their vision
for 2003, wrapping up with discussion of goals and principles, key activities
to undertake, and a work grid identifying who would do what. His goal
for Tuesday's meeting was to discuss each item as fully as possible and
reach consensus and comfort on achievable and practical actions to take.
BORDER 2012 UPDATE
Laura Yoshii, EPA, Region 9
Regarding review of the draft plan for Border 2012, Ms. Yoshii updated the board on the public comment period, which began just after the last GNEB meeting. She was happy to report that they had very good public outreach during the Border 2012 process. A total of 27 meetings were held in Regions 6 and 9 all along the border, which gave them a lot of good input and overall a positive response to the draft plan. The state push for regional implementation was well received; concern still existed on the resources available for implementation.
They have since been diligently working to incorporate all the input into a revised border plan. The draft committee has met several times, which hopes to complete review of the draft in March and roll out the plan in April. Deputy Administrator Linda Fisher is scheduled to participate in the rollout ceremony in Tijuana on April 4, 2003.
Implementation will begin as soon as possible after finalization of the plan. They will schedule meetings with various regional work groups to begin to develop an implementation plan. After much input from the public meetings, they added a sixth goal to improve environmental performance through compliance enforcement, pollution prevention, and environmental stewardship promotion to address compliance questions and issues raised at the public meetings. Their enforcement and compliance office will be a much more active player. The office was actually one of the very successful groups in working with the states and locals, because it had a proactive regional work group.
Ms. Yoshii's presentation raised a number of questions and comments:
Richard Walling suggested that Border 2012 take advantage of the April 7, 2003 date for World Health Day, whose theme is healthy children in the environment. EPA, the Pan- American Health Organization (PAHO), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are working together to highlight activities in the region and along the border during the week of April 7B14. It would be good timing to announce Border 2012 that week. The kickoff will be at PAHO in Washington, D.C., but, during the rest of the week, events will take place throughout the region, including along the border and perhaps El Paso at the PAHO field office or San Diego. This is still being discussed with PAHO and EPA. He said he could get Ms. Yoshii in touch with the EPA people working on this, which includes Bill Bacon. They are looking to highlight to the press efforts by the United States to improve children's health and environment.
Ms. Yoshii fielded a number of other questions. Regarding GNEB's role in implementing the Border 2012 framework document, she said GNEB could be invaluable in monitoring or staying abreast of implementation at regular intervals, reporting on how they are doing, and raising concerns. Elaine Koerner, based in Region 9, looked forward to creating synergies between the Border 2012 program and GNEB.
Regarding how to assure resources are available for implementation, Border 2012 expects to use some of the money earmarked for the border to support the regional work groups. It then depends on how the budget comes out. Ms. Yoshii had already raised the issue in the planning process. There is continued support for the Mexico work; as they move toward implementation, however, they will have to seek creative approaches through other grants and grant negotiations to get continued support. She was not overly concerned this year about funding for implementation and will keep the board informed as she gets a better sense of the budget. She noted that during the public meetings many local officials said they would help to ensure that Border 2012 gets into both federal and state budgets. Most were, of course, from the border region and have a stake in seeing ongoing support for the program.
In addition to the funding issue, Ms. Yoshii reviewed the following other major public comments received on the draft plan:
- Response was positive on the new guiding principles of goal orientation and greater leveraging at state and local levels.
- People from all levels of government raised the policy issue of poverty.
- Many commented on developing environmental indicators; so, in the plan, they are committed to report at specific intervals on progress in this area.
- Many also commented on environmental education. Nonprofit groups and nongovernmental organizations strongly believed that continuing environmental education is important and may get lost, given how the goals are formulated. Border 2012 will encourage that each goal area pay attention to the role that environmental education plays in implementation.
- Many expressed concern that the
plan does not include efforts by sister agencies (e.g., the Departments
of Interior, Education, and
the plan and activities in the border region. One of the focuses
of regional implementation must be on how to coordinate with those
on water and ecosystem issues.
2003 STRATEGIC PLANNING
David Batson, facilitator
As the two other presenters had not yet joined the meeting by telephone, the meeting turned to strategic planning, specifically GNEB's 2003 vision, goals, and activities for the coming year. Mr. Batson launched the discussion by presenting the 2002 vision approved last June:
Provides timely, informed, nonpartisan advice to the U.S. President
and Congress on U.S.-Mexico border region environmental infrastructure
with a special focus on input from communities. This advice enables strategic
allocation of appropriate federal resources to the region. Result is
both short- and longer-term improvements, as well as sustainable development
throughout the region.
Mr. Batson asked whether they could make simple modifications to create the vision for 2003. The following points were discussed:
- Highlight continuing environmental and infrastructure needs along the border.
The vision for 2002 assumes that attention is being paid to the border, but this has changed a great deal in the past 18 months. The Administration has significantly reduced BEIF funds and seems justifiably focused on security issues along the border, but security is not the only issue that communities are facing along the border. GNEB is the only forum for reminding the President and Congress that border communities are dynamic areas that still face significant environmental problems. Some policies relating to security are negatively affecting rural communities along the border. GNEB has a responsibility to point out impacts of policies affecting the border that may be detrimental to long-term efforts in the region.
- Expand the scope of influence from environmental infrastructure to include policy (e.g., on immigration).
In reviewing GNEB enabling legislation and by-laws, some believed that including policy in the GNEB vision might be outside of GNEB's charter; others thought it might be worth taking the risk to improve environmental quality in the border region.
- Incorporate several new concepts:
Public health. Border 2012 is a large program, about to be implemented,
that has the goal of protecting the environment and public
health. GNEB's vision
should also incorporate the importance of public health.
Quality of life. The purpose of GNEB is to Aimprove the quality of life of persons residing on the U.S. side of the border, so this should be part of our vision.
Quality of the environment
Habitats and natural resources are not now part of the Border 2012 program, and the Department of the Interior is not an equal partner with EPA. Yet, the regional work groups could be venues for addressing some natural resource concerns. It makes sense to incorporate these concerns in the 2003 vision, because GNEB is a broad venue for providing comments and advice to the President and Congress.
Accountability. Someone needs to be accountable for addressing the problems identified in the border region.
Binational cooperation. Those working on border issues must work with their Mexican counterparts at all levels. Otherwise, the issues will not be addressed holistically.
- Make the language of the vision hard hitting. The language of the vision needs to be written in a way that will be heard; otherwise, it will be ignored.
The board decided to revise the vision to incorporate these concepts and then distribute it to all board members for review. Nancy Sutley volunteered to rewrite the vision, as it was not appropriate for EPA staff to do so. She will send the revised statement to Elaine Koerner for distribution within two weeks. Board members should return their comments to Ms. Koerner.
The board then moved on to revising GNEB goals and principles for 2003 to reflect the discussed changes to its vision. They discussed additional goals or principles to add to those from 2002 and agreed to take into account a number of new goals for 2003:
- Increase information on and establish an oversight role on Border 2012. GNEB goals and activities currently do not mention this program, but should if GNEB is to provide EPA with comments that review program performance. If GNEB solicits public participation at its meetings, it can also convey community views to EPA. This GNEB goal should incorporate the need for federal accountability.
- Increase opportunities for more effective coordination with Mexico. GNEB is supposed to advise the President and Congress on improving the quality of life of border communities on the U.S. side of the border, but that cannot happen without changing activities in Mexico. The reality is that different policies or economic capabilities in Mexico can affect U.S. border communities.
- Take into account and increase understanding of transboundary impacts of environmental issues along the U.S.-Mexican border. Better coordination with Mexico requires understanding of environmental problems of the border region from a Mexican perspective. GNEB has worked on this and can do more in 2003. It also requires learning about differences in standards and regulations (e.g., air quality standards for power plants) that present barriers to improving the border's environment.
- Increase opportunities for capacity building on both sides of the border. A lot of capacity building, sharing information and technical expertise and even how to get what is needed from the federal government, is taking place at the state level in the United States. Although capacity building still needs to reach some U.S. border communities, a marked difference exists in how communities in Mexican states react to border projects. Energy projects are a good example of where communities have gained in ability to make their opinions known in useful ways.
- Remind the President and Congress that, given scarce financial resources, the Federal government should allocate some resources to the border region.
The board discussed which of these goals applied to the board and which to advice the board could give the President and Congress. They agreed that the board needed to both understand Mexican issues and regulations better as well as advise the President and Congress so they also understand them better. GNEB advises the President and Congress both through its yearly report and timely letters. Any of the proposed revisions to GNEB goals could take the form of a letter to the government.
Nancy Sutley again agreed to take the lead on drafting 2003 goals.
Instead of moving on to discussion of GNEB activities for 2003, the board decided to turn to a report by Jorge Garces of NADB, who had joined the conference call.
BORDER ISSUE UPDATE
Jorge Garces, NADB
Before providing an update on key border issues, Mr. Garces first summarized the activities of NADB, which had a very successful year, increasing their lending and issuing more loans than in the past 6 years. The bank now has a total of $58.6 million in loans of which $15.6 million are in the United States and $43 million in Mexico. This represents an increase in the number of loans for environmental projects on the border. The number of projects with approved financing has also increased. Disbursements have accelerated as projects enter their construction phases. Regarding capacity building, the Utility Management Institute in San Antonio, which is a capacity-building seminar, is offering four modules, including a graduate module to train managers and operators of utilities in Mexico and the United States on new technologies and better operation and billings. The institute is also looking at a new module on water conservation.
Mr. Garces then reviewed two key border issues: (1) lack of funds for basic infrastructure (water, wastewater, solid waste, etc.) on the Mexican side of the border and (2) the Mexican water debt issue:
- The endemic lack of funds for infrastructure will be exacerbated in 2003. It is going to be difficult to come up with funds to finance some of the projects on the Mexican side of the border. On the positive side, lending to MexicoCabout 75 percent of NADB loansChas begun to increase, but credit capacity of local utilities continues to be limited and the prevailing political instability further complicates matters. On the U.S. side, BEIF grants have decreased from $75 million to $50 million. These grants have been instrumental in financing many projects along the border, so funding reductions raise great concern.
- Long-term solutions and attraction of private investments require a broad effort through municipal reforms on how to develop, operate, and maintain infrastructure and provide services. Lags exist among the regulatory and contractual framework, property rights, pricing, administrative structures, and the labor and political environment. Utilities lack a good governance structure; managers of utilities are elected, and turnover creates problems. Management and politics should be separated; NADB is working with the governor's office and Mexican communities to find ways to do so.
- NADB needs to establish a closer link between EPA and NADB-funded grants and NADB lending to bring down the cost of lending in border communities and ensure that NADB funds are available and used along the border. NADB has $50 million in loans, but a balance of $350 million exists that should be made available to communities at low interest.
- The contentious and urgent nature of the Mexican water debt issue has distracted both sides from discussing longer-term sustainable approaches to the problem. Both governments need to change the dialogue from a focus on debt to discuss long-term solutions to growing constraints and demands imposed by population growth, consumption patterns, and climate trends. Exploring the institutional framework, policy issues, and investments will allow better planning and management of shared water resources in the Rio Grande and Colorado as well as all along the border.
ACTIVITIES AND WORK GRID
David Batson, facilitator
The meeting then returned to strategic planning for 2003, specifically the following activities:
- Upcoming meetings. Mr. Batson noted that meetings are planned in Deming, New Mexico, for April 9-10; Del Rio, Texas, for July 30-31; and San Diego, California, for October 22-23. Each will have a specific theme and planning committee. Nancy Sutley volunteered her staff to help set up the San Diego meeting, which will focus on transboundary cooperation. Karen Chapman, Paul Ganster, Amanda Aguirre (added by Richard Walling because she also serves on the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission), and Ed Ranger will serve on this planning committee. Laura Yoshii also agreed to help, but asked to have her name removed for planning the New Mexico and Texas meetings; any of her staff could attend instead. Public participation should continue to be encouraged at these meetings, and someone on the board should serve as the point person to assure it happens.
- Consejo dialogue. One or more GNEB members should serve on a team for dialogue with Consejo. Paul Ganster, Karen Chapman, Valecia Gavin, and Ed Ranger volunteered to be part of the liaison team. Oscar Carrillo is taking the lead on dialogue with Consejo, and Oscar Romo (who is on Consejo, but was not able to attend the board meeting) sent board members excellent informational notes. Elaine Koerner will work with Oscar Carrillo to set up a conference call for all interested parties and with Placido dos Santos and Oscar Romo to set up an effective liaison team.
- Indicators of effectiveness. Although GNEB is clearly becoming increasingly influential, it does need to find ways to measure its influence and effectiveness. This issue will be discussed at the business meeting.
- Board membership. Jerry Paz and Diana Borja have been reappointed to GNEB. Placido dos Santos thanked outgoing members, which include Susan Kunz, Judith Espinosa (chairperson for four years), Irasema Coronado, and Bobby Ybarra (who is being replaced by James Stefanov).
The meeting turned to logistics for a conference call the next morning
with those who could not attend the meeting in person. The meeting
was to begin
with the visit of EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.
The meeting was adjourned at 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, February 19, 2003 (9:00 a.m.)
Chairperson Placido dos Santos reconvened the Good Neighbor Environmental Board meeting on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 at 9:00 a.m. Mr. dos Santos introduced those attending in person as well as those who joined the meeting through a conference call. He thanked EPA for the wonderful location in the Sky Room at the top floor of the Hotel Washington and those who had made all the arrangements.
Board members present: Chairperson Placido dos Santos,* Karen Chapman, Irasema Coronado, William Fry,* Paul Ganster, Valecia Gavin, John Klein,* Dennis Linskey,* Ed Ranger, Nancy Sutley, Richard Walling, and * Laura Yoshii.
EPA staff members present: Elaine Koerner (designated federal officer), Daiva Balkus, Oscar Carrillo, Geraldine Brown, and Mark Joyce.
Others: Manuel Ayala and Jim Stefanov.*
* Indicates those linked through a conference call.
While waiting for the arrival of EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, Mr. dos Santos reviewed transitions in board members: new members, retirements, and expirations. EPA presented special plaques bearing the logo of the GNEB to outgoing board members Susan Kunz, Robert Ybarra, Judith Espinosa, and Irasema Coronado with many thanks for their efforts. It was noted that Ms. Coronado had recently been honored by an invitation to speak to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women about women along the U.S.- Mexican border.
Mr. dos Santos mentioned that the minutes of the Nogales meeting included in board member packets had a couple of typographical errors. In addition, EPA staff attendance did not include Christine Todd Whitman, who in any case should not have been listed as EPA staff. Board members should send any additional changes to the minutes to Elaine Koerner. The board approved the minutes with a few modifications.
Nancy Sutley will make the following available to board members, either on California EPA's web site or through other means:
- A border coordination handbook, put together for California EPA staff when they travel. Focusing mostly on Baja California, the handbook has good and relevant information on dealing with issues that may arise in traveling in Mexico.
- Environmental Technology and Service Opportunities in Baja California Peninsula, prepared by now State Senator Denise Ducheney when a fellow at San Diego State University. This is a thorough report on commercial opportunities for U.S. companies in Baja California focused on environmental technology.
- Environmental education curriculum. California EPA is working with SEMARNAT, the Mexican Secretary of Education, and the Secretary of Education in Baja on comprehensive environmental education, adapting and translating material from a California curriculum for use in Mexico.
Governor Whitman arrived at 9:30 a.m. and was warmly welcomed by Mr. dos Santos. President George W. Bush appointed her EPA Administrator, before which she served two terms as New Jersey's governor. She has provided attention to the U.S.-Mexico border region, and the board was flattered that she could visit with them.
Christine Todd Whitman, EPA Administrator
Governor Whitman first thanked all those who had made it to the meeting, saying it took a higher level of commitment to make it through all the snow. On behalf of the Agency and the President, she expressed appreciation for all the board members' work and attention to border issues. The President believes that GNEB represents an extraordinarily important relationship between the two countries and will continue to develop this relationship. The approach GNEB is taking, described in its yearly report, reflects what the Administration believes will yield the best results for everyone in the border community, including the recently signed border air quality agreement, which will allow more information sharing on this issue. Development on both sides of the border has affected air quality. Sharing of information, plans, and best technologies and methods can have a positive impact. This agreement, she continued, will maximize partnership; EPA is working closely with SEMARNAT and Victor Lichtinger.
She emphasized the importance of building solutions from the Aborder area up, for example, through Border 2012, rather than trying to impose solutions from Washington and various agencies. It is important, she said, to ensure greater inclusivity and responsiveness to border communities and determine how best to focus resources by asking which projects would have the best and longest-term impacts. No border issue, whether addressed through the new air quality agreement or Border 2012, is going to be solved in the short term; few environmental issues lend themselves to quick turn-around and all require investment now for improvements down the road. That is why it becomes so important that people, such as GNEB board members and others, representing all the federal agencies, the border communities, different private and non-profit groups, as well as the public sector help problem solve and direct thinking by federal agencies and those who work along the border. It is critical that communities commit themselves to this, while understanding that solving problems will take time. If we start now, however, we can improve on what is happening today and prevent further degradation in the future. The border is experiencing incredible growth and economic development, but it needs to happen in a sustainable way.
Governor Whitman again thanked the board for their commitment to the border area and willingness to take time from their demanding schedules to help solve problems in the right way.
Mr. dos Santos expressed his thanks to the governor for her remarks,
saying that it meant a lot to know that she and the Administration valued
GNEB's advice. Several years ago, the board had wondered if it was having
an effect and whether its advice was meaningful or not. He now considered
the whole discussion moot. EPA is making a difference on the U.S.-Mexican
border. Although many challenges remain, progress made cannot be changed.
Mr. dos Santos presented Governor Whitman with a lapel pin for the Good Neighbor Environmental Board and a calendar developed by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in conjunction with children in schools at Ambos-Nogales on the Arizona-Mexico border. Every year, 5,000 children on both sides of the border submit drawings and original opinions. A binational team selects the winning drawings to be included in what is the only binational and bilingual calendar along the U.S.-Mexico border. EPA pays for staff time, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration pays for production. GNEB sends out about 15,000 of the calendars along the entire length of the border to keep attention focused on air quality issues some of the toughest and most important for children's health.
Governor Whitman thanked him and noted that this initiative is one that will ensure the prominence of these issues long into the future. Children are so wonderful in spurring action on environmental issues. As everyone knows, changes in the impetus for environmental protection and environmental consciousness usually come from local communities; many times, it is the children who are making sure their parents understand the importance of focusing on the environment.
After Governor Whitman stood for photographs with those assembled, she left the meeting.
Karen Chapman noted that, although it had been wonderful to have Governor Whitman attend, it was disappointing that they had had no opportunity to ask questions of the governor. Mr. dos Santos noted that a question-and-answer period had been planned, but the governor could only attend the meeting briefly.
Clarification was given on the air quality agreement mentioned by the governor. It committed the United States and Mexico to share environmental data on a sister city basis, much like what is being done now in Texas. It is mentioned in the power plant section of the sixth GNEB report now being reviewed and was announced at the same time as the binational commission or BNC between the two Presidents and cabinet members in Mexico City. Carlos Rincon has copies of the agreement, as he attended one of the meetings in Mexico City.
Placido dos Santos, chairperson
The board then turned to discussion of its sixth and seventh yearly reports and other business:
Seventh report theme. Mr. dos Santos first shared his observations on past reports. The first three reports attempted to describe the many environmental needs along the border and came up with between 125 and 135 recommendations in each. This shotgun approach on environmental needs and issues diminished the effectiveness of each recommendation as well as splintering and creating more work for the board. In contrast, the fourth report focused on only one subject water and was highly acclaimed. This was Ms. Koerner's first report. The fifth and sixth reports increased the number of subjects handled. Striving for quality in all these individual sections likewise increased the workload of the board and EPA support staff. Mr. dos Santos, therefore, suggested that GNEB return to a single theme for its seventh report. It may be challenging to choose just one, but it is still a better idea.
A related issue is that the board had begun linking meeting themes with the report so it reflected public participation and input, for example, in Calexico, the subject was power plants and, in Nogales, health and conservation. Also relevant to the discussion is the fact that the board has decided to provide advice on an as-needed basis to the President and Congress, that is, crafting letters and other communications through the course of the year on issues that arise. These two points imply that the purpose of the yearly report does not necessarily have to be linked to the meeting topics or designed to communicate with the President and Congress on multiple topics.
For these reasons, Mr. dos Santos suggested that the seventh report focus on a single theme, which he proposed be children's environmental health. This theme would certainly involve multimedia work, but could focus on how the environment affects children's health differently than adults' health. Responses to his proposal included the following points:
- A single-theme approach would certainly help reduce the workload in terms of review by board members. It is also compatible with the current federal approach: in-depth, substantive reports on issues.
- Other ways can be found to convey public concerns to the President and Congress in a more timely fashion than a yearly report.
- GNEB has yet to focus on children's environmental health.
- Such a theme may encourage the Administration to refocus on border issues at a time when its attention is focused elsewhere. Using children as a way to highlight environmental problems along the border will improve attention and readership and, possibly, action by the U.S. executive and legislative branches.
- A focus on children and environment is appropriate and will resonate well with many people. Border populations are young and growing. The topic is also difficult to ignore.
- The theme encapsulates the overall GNEB theme of sustainable development.
- Such a theme is also timely. It is the theme of the World Health Day in April. In addition, Border 2012 and the Environmental Health Workshop is addressing, among others, asthma, pesticides, and their relationship to children.
- Governor Whitman specifically mentioned children in her remarks that morning, and DHHS and EPA have long collaborated on children and the environment; indeed, the topic is a priority with the heads of both agencies.
- Three years ago, California created a Center for Children's Environmental Health at California EPA, which would like to link with a border program.
- The Border Health Commission would probably react positively to the proposed theme, as they are looking for partners to get behind its twenty measurable border objectives by 2010.
Other comments addressed how such a theme, if chosen, should be handled:
- It would be important to focus narrowly on only those environmental problems that affect children's more than adults' health.
- It would be important to focus on compelling short-term needs, as well as long-term aspects such as sustainability and the importance of environmental education and capacity building.
- The report should focus on all border populations susceptible to environmental health problems, that is, also the elderly.
- It is important to sort out what subjects will and will not be covered, because children's environmental health really includes all media, which could lead to a report on multiple subjects anyway. A limited set of issues might include asthma, hepatitis A, and exposure to pesticides, lead, and arsenic.
- It is also important to define what ages of children should be covered.
- Even though GNEB meetings in the coming year will not focus on issues related to this theme, the public attending should still be invited to comment on the theme.
- The children of colonias should perhaps receive special attention in the report due to their unique environmental health concerns.
The board concluded the discussion by agreeing on children's environmental health as the theme of the seventh report, while recognizing that many decisions will need to be made to develop the theme further. It also agreed that the focuses of GNEB meetings this year should not be changed or linked with the seventh report's theme, but the report theme would still be announced prior to these meetings to solicit public comments and input. Other aspects of the report discussed included the following:
- Press release announcement of theme. A proposal was made to send out a press release announcing the report's theme, perhaps linked to the comments made by Governor Whitman that day. On the one hand, it might be an important way to begin collecting information and public input for the report. On the other hand, announcing the theme in a press release could raise too many questions from the public and interested groups and agencies if the theme is described too broadly. It would be important to refine the theme well in such a release.
- Sources of information. Several sources of information were suggested for the report's theme, for example, USDA and USGS. It would be important for state officials to work with state and local agencies and health officers and to reach out to local health officials for data and priorities. School nurses and promotoras are also excellent sources of data, because in many instances, school nurses are the only medical care providers some border children ever see.
Nancy Sutley mentioned that she could provide access to various useful sources of information, because the State of California has particular expertise in terms of studies and research. She will send board members the web site links. She also mentioned upcoming meetings she was attending with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers and the Centers for Disease Control, which have an interest in the proposed theme and might assist. Mr. Klein added that he could bring the collective input and personnel resources of his department to help deal with this topic, especially in delineating and characterizing natural resources that could have a major impact on human health. Mr. Ayala added that USDA could provide good information and advice from its specialists in food, diet, and nutrition as they relate to children's environmental health. Board members should send ideas on any other sources of information to Elaine Koerner for distribution to other members.
- Drafting committee. A number of board members agreed to serve on the drafting committee for the report. They include Nancy Sutley, Valecia Gavin, Richard Walling, John Klein, James Stefanov, William Fry, and either Placido dos Santos or Michelle Kimpel Guzman.
- Conference call on further development of the report. Elaine Koerner proposed and the drafting committee agreed to an initial planning conference call on Thursday, April 24, 2003, at 2:00 p.m. Oscar Carrillo and Ms. Koerner will arrange and get back to the volunteers on the details.
Mr. dos Santos urged board members to remain focused on completing review of the sixth report, which is taking longer than expected to prepare, and only then turn to developing the seventh report further.
Sixth report progress. Ms. Koerner then reported on progress on the sixth report, saying that many people are working hard on the sixth report to address concerns that have been raised. They are hoping to publish the report by the end of March. Each section has been sent out for review on a staggered schedule, so production can start section by section. The water section will be sent out at the end of or beginning of the current week. The conservation section needs work and will be sent out for review as soon as possible. Draft copy on four special topics Consejo, Border 2012, NADB reform, and security will also be sent out shortly for review. More straight forward sections, for example, the financial and business sections, are in production.
Ms. Koerner also responded to comments that the staggered schedule made
keeping up with different versions of sections and seeing the report
as a whole difficult. She understood the problem, but did not want to
sacrifice quality; waiting to send the entire report out for review at
one time would also delay production by a month or two. She said she
would, however, be happy to go along with whatever the board decided
in this regard as well as receive input on improving the process for
the seventh report. She also asked, when all the pieces of the report
are in place, that board members point out any piece that might be missing.
Sixth report distribution. In the past, Elaine Koerner and her staff have attempted to track distribution of the GNEB report. It is not an exact science, and overlap in the distribution lists does exist. Board members often know the best audiences for the report. The fifth report tracking record should help those who sent out the report last year to specific groups to do so again for the sixth report as well as to any new groups or people. The Washington office tries to supplement this distribution through general mailings, working with the regional EPA offices. She asked that the initial request forms be returned by the end of the first week in March. Geraldine Brown will work closely with Oscar Carrillo and herself on the tracking record. Mr. Linskey noted that he had sent reports to many libraries in Mexico run by the U.S. Information Service.
Ms. Koerner asked those distributing the reports to choose between doing it themselves or sending her a contact list so that the EPA mailing house in Cincinnati could handle the distribution. She will get back to them on the exact format of contact information that Cincinnati needs. She and her staff will also work to identify gaps in the distribution list. It may, however, be too time consuming to try to avoid duplication in the list.
Ms. Sutley suggested that GNEB try to reach state and local organizations based in Washington, such as the Western Governors Association, ECOS, the Stappa Alapco, air officials, ASWIPCA, water-related organizations, ASTHO, and NACCHO, which can help publicize the report with their members. They could perhaps also tap a directory of associations in the Washington area.
The meeting then turned to unfinished business:
Indicators of the board's effectiveness. Noting that the board is clearly gaining in effectiveness, Mr. dos Santos said it was still useful to establish ways to measure the board's effectiveness. The board should have some kind of formal reporting process for such information. Possible measures discussed included:
- Documents referencing the board's decisions
- Recommendations and decisions and policies of the federal government based on board recommendations
- Citations in academic research
- Assessment of when the board's recommendations were implemented
- Attendance at public meetings
- Instances in which the board relays public input to policymakers.
Some of the above criteria are difficult to measure, because, for example, the same recommendations can come from several groups at once. It might help to make the board's recommendations as specific as possible so their implementation is easier to track. A lively debate is going on across the federal government on to what extent implementation of recommendations can be used as the sole criteria of effectiveness and whether one should consider intangible influence of the board, for example, board member efforts to market the board's efforts in other contexts.
The sixth report touches on the issue of measuring effectiveness; the seventh report could include a section on the board's effectiveness in the past year and how to measure it. They could begin by using qualitative measures, while working on developing generic indicators. Board members should forward any further ideas on measuring board effectiveness to Oscar Carrillo.
Technology tools. Ed Ranger indicated his willingness to involve
himself and his office in helping GNEB make production of its report
In addition, Mr. dos Santos complimented the GNEB web site,
suggesting that all GNEB reports be converted to PDFs and posted on
Other business. Ms. Chapman proposed that the board send a letter about the BEIF funds cut and $25 million loss, as it appears to be a critical time for such an effort. She offered to draft the letter perhaps assisted by NADB staff based on a previous letter GNEB sent in support of BEIF, adding information on what $25 million means in terms of border infrastructure. Although such a letter would be a good idea, it would not affect the President's budget, which is already out, so should also be sent to Congressional representatives, including budget and appropriation chair persons and environmental representatives; the border caucus; the four U.S. border governors; and environment secretaries.
Several board members associated with the federal government expressed concern about signing such a letter, as they are not allowed to lobby Congress, particularly after the President has set his budget. The board debated approaches to the letter that would allow federal members to sign, as a message from the entire board would appear stronger. They could, for example, craft it as an informative letter on the infrastructure consequences of reducing BEIF funds. The board decided, however, that it was more important to draft a strongly worded message on GNEB stationary, but in that case only nonfederal members would be able to sign it. The letter would briefly acknowledge that federal members had recused themselves from signing.
Ms. Koerner said she would first check with General Counsel on whether a subset of the board could send such a letter. The board could then decide how strongly to word the letter and who could sign it. If such a letter was not possible, the board could compose a softer letter that simply provided scientific information and data so everyone could sign it. The only other alternative would be for some other appropriate body, such as the border governments, to send such a letter. It was agreed that, after consulting the General Counsel, Ms. Chapman would draft the letter, assisted by Nancy Sutley, for review by the board.
In other business, Ms. Sutley noted that the border governors' meeting last year in Phoenix convened a new worktable on energy. She is the co-chair, but is trying to find someone at the California Energy Commission to take it over. They are in the process of developing the worktable's agenda. One resolution involves developing guidelines for power plants. Those involved will report on their work at the Deming meeting. One effort under consideration is an inventory and needs assessment on energy infrastructure in border regions.
Ms. Chapman noted that Environmental Defense is drafting a
report on border power plants for distribution to the CEC, NADBank, and
many other places.
She suggested that she and Ms. Sutley discuss what suggestions
the report could make to take advantage of recent events and initiatives
the one she just described.
Ms. Koerner raised a few logistical issues. She encouraged board members to continue to send news of events to include in the GNEB Round Up newsletter, which gets a lot of good feedback from readers each month, as does the calendar. In addition, she asked which board members present intended to attend the Deming meeting. They included Jim Stefanov; Karen Chapman; Laura Yoshii; an alternate, yet undecided, for John Klein; Dennis Linskey or his alternate; Thomas Mampilly as alternate for Richard Walling; William Fry; and an alternate for Manuel Ayala.
Mr. dos Santos noted that members of the board have been invited
by the equivalent of the head of the Office of International Activities
at SEMARNAT to participate in a public meeting on a liquid natural gas
port receiving facility and pipeline for delivery of natural gas north
toward the border. Such an invitation has never come before, and such
outreach from Mexico's EPA is encouraging. The invitation, however, did
not come in time for any GNEB board member to attend. Board members
are, of course, welcome to attend such public meetings and convey the
of the entities they represent. If they wish to convey the views of GNEB,
however, they should communicate with the other board members and the
designated federal officer, Elaine Koerner, to be sure the board
member attending the meeting represents either stated GNEB positions,
GNEB's recommendations, or the consensus of the board on an issue. The
board should probably discuss at a future meeting how to handle these
Those interested in the Consejo dialogue decided to set up a conference call before the Deming meeting to have a frank and informative conversation on GNEB's relationship with Consejo. The group included Oscar Carrillo, Karen Chapman, Irasema Coronado, Valecia Gavin, Elaine Koerner, Ed Ranger, Paul Ganster, Alex Rodarte, and Placido dos Santos. They agreed to hold the conference call on Tuesday, March 18, 2003 at 2:00 p.m. EST.
Mr. dos Santos thanked Jim Stefanov for arranging that day's conference call and once again apologized to the group for not identifying all those on the phone line for Governor Whitman. Ms. Koerner thanked all those who had succeeded in attending the meeting in Washington; those who had tried hard to get there, but could not; and Mr. dos Santos for chairing the meeting, saying that they had accomplished a great deal.
The meeting adjourned at 11:37 a.m.