by Ruben L. Ruiz, El Paso Metro
“Read my lips, no new taxes!” George W. the First bellowed the now famous assertion. Not that the statement was profound but rather it was simply a promise–A broken promise is all that it became. It is not as if he was the first politician to lie. Hmmm, but it is not just politicians that use words that have nothing to do with reality. “I also certify that there will be no change in the type of pollutants emitted and there will be no increase in the quantity of pollutants emitted” was part of a statement provided by Jobe Concrete to the Texas Air Control Board (now known as Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission) September 12, 1990.
Many people who make their living in the rock industry here in El Paso view environmentalists as problematic and unfriendly to their cause. I will, for the record, state that I am not against industry as long as it is responsible to its environment. Responsible how and to whom? Responsible to those that share the environment around them whether it is people or endangered cacti or endangered birds or fish and for the consequences of their impact on the earth. The fact is that the statement given by Jobe Concrete in 1990 was not accurate.
In 1991, the total tonnage of solid particulate (dust) inventories was 44. If we assume that they were supposed to be around 50 tons a year then Jobe must be credited for being below the standard which, by the way, they set for themselves. In 1999, the total tonnage of particulate matter was estimated to be about 236. That is an increase of about 500%. The number was compiled from hours and tonnage factors. The truth of the matter is that the actual tonnage may have been greatly underestimated. It is this lack of information and possible circumventing of laws and their weak enforcement that underscores the need for more regulation and glass door operations. The move by the Mayor to increase oversight of the Mckelligon operation should be supported.
I believe that simply by moving the plant outside the city limits would help the quarry as well as the neighborhood that it would be vacating. Another alternative to force this option is to require a zero-tolerance of violations and strict adherence to the law. Money is a scarce commodity in El Paso. It is something that most El Pasoans do not have and certainly residents near the quarry are no exception. There is no money for lawyers. There is no money to move to another place. There is no real option to become involved with civic affairs without money. A problem Jobe does not have.
The American Lung Association states on its website that “Air pollution may also cause more incidents of respiratory infections because airborne particulate matter can seriously weaken the lung’s defense systems. To the point– imagine walking into your home and finding it completely covered in white powder. If you would like to see the real thing just visit some homes in the Mckelligon area. This issue has nothing to do with the concerns having to do with the aesthetics of the mountain. It has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with innocent children suffering from asthma and allergies because of these exposures. It has to do with the fact that individually many of these people have no voice. Rose Rodriguez, District Representative, received financial backing from Irene Epperson who is close to Jobe and the quarry interests. Although, Stanley speaks of unfair card stacking on the Council. That is exactly what he has done to this neighborhood. He has locally stacked the deck to the point where council members hesitate to hire someone with expertise to dutifully inspect the plant and its operations.
I understand big money politics but strongly disagree with them. I would rather government be diligent in protecting the citizens they so willingly tax. That is all. I am interested to see where our city council goes with this issue as it is only going to become more of scandal if they simply refuse to do what is necessary to enforce the law of the land.
With lines only getting worse at the international bridges and the carbon emission pollution that comes from it increasing as well, it is important that we do what we can before it is too late.