Environmental Justice is a guiding principle here at EPA, and one that is woven into the work of all of our programmatic and regional efforts, both domestically and internationally. EPA administers a unique initiative in North America that focuses on community-led environmental programs that benefit one of our most at-risk communities along the U.S.-Mexico Border.
The work of U.S.-Mexico Border Program is immensely important because the U.S. residents of the border community are among the poorest in the United States, and they’ve experienced severe environmental degradation over the years. Since the signing of the La Paz Agreement in 1983 between the U.S. and Mexico, EPA has partnered with Mexico’s Ministry of Environment (known as SEMARNAT) to address border issues, such as waste, wastewater management, drinking water, clean air, and emergency response. This partnership is unique because the work is determined, developed, and delivered by the communities in the border region. The federal government does not prescribe the work but rather responds to the strategic goals and objectives determined by the communities. We provide technical expertise and leadership to deliver critical resources, but it is the border residents that truly make this program work.
EPA and SEMARNAT have successfully completed two programs under the La Paz Agreement, Border XXI and Border 2012, and have recently launched Border 2020. One of the great achievements of the border programs was the clean-up of millions of scrap tires that littered the border, causing water-borne diseases and waste build-up across the region. Border communities committed to ending this problem through a series of border-wide community events and, in the last ten years, have removed and recycled more than 13 million scrap tires throughout the area. Recently, both EPA’s Regions 9 and 6 announced the recipients for Border 2020 grants, ensuring that this important bilateral program will continue to strengthen the border community for years to come.
Environmental Justice is about listening and responding to needs of the people, especially those who are most at risk. When we at EPA support the work of citizens and serve as their advocates within the federal government, then we are doing our jobs. By empowering communities to identify and then take on the problems in their own backyards, we ensure that environmental justice stays at the forefront of EPA’s mission both at home and abroad.
Jane Nishida is the Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs (OITA), having previously served as the Director of the Office of Regional and Bilateral Affairs within OITA. In her current capacity, she leads EPA’s international and tribal portfolios, and is responsible for the full range of EPA’s environmental policy development and program implementation in tribal lands and in sovereign nations outside of the United States. Nishida received a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon and a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown Law Center in Washington, D.C.