ICYMI: New EPA Administrator Commits to Rep. Peters to Prioritize & Tackle Pollution Crisis at Tijuana River
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, during an Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing that marked Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan’s first time before the committee of jurisdiction, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) stressed the EPA’s critical role in cleaning up the dire environmental catastrophe in the Tijuana River Valley afflicting San Diego’s coastal communities:
“Tens of millions of gallons of raw sewage – human and chemical waste from commercial and industrial facilities – are flowing down through the Tijuana River, across the U.S.-Mexico border, into San Diego. When it dries, the dust blows into nearby neighborhoods. The smell and noxious fumes make people sick. Border Patrol agents and Navy seals, who train to protect our country, must wade and swim through it and are stricken with skin rashes, nausea, and even their boots disintegrating on their feet because of the chemicals in this sludge.”
Although sewage in the Tijuana River has been a problem for decades, it has worsened over the last few years. In 2018, south San Diego County beaches affected by the pollution were closed 101 days out of the year. In 2019, that increased to 243 days. In 2020, 295 days. In 2021, the beaches have been closed for half the year, and the contaminated river and nearby canyons have experienced toxic, dangerous spills every day.
During the hearing, Rep. Peters asked Administrator Regan for four things:
- Urgent fixes to slow the flows;
- A diversion structure built immediately through executive order or otherwise fast-tracked;
- For the EPA to proclaim the urgency to the Biden Administration about the need for the State Department to engage with Mexico to ensure they do their part to build the infrastructure needed to keep up with their population growth, and;
- To join himself and Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51), who represents the border area, in San Diego to see this crisis in person.
Administrator Regan, who was sworn in to his position in March, affirmed his commitment to tackle the problem and agreed to visit the Tijuana River Valley, saying: “I absolutely would love to visit with you. It’s a priority for EPA. I’ve already spoken with my Mexican counterpart about how urgent this problem is and appreciate the resources that Congress allocated a couple of months ago. And we’re working hard on solutions.”
In 2019, Rep. Peters and members of the San Diego congressional delegation secured $300 million in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement for water quality improvement projects along the border. Other delegation-led efforts include the passage of the bipartisan North American Development Bank Improvement Act to reauthorize and strengthen the bank so it can continue to invest in environmental infrastructure along the border, hosting a discussion with Mexican ambassadors to the United States to push their government to invest in wastewater infrastructure, and requesting a Government Accountability Office report on the crisis.
Rep. Peters also briefly touched on the recent introduction of his METHANE Act during this hearing, asking Administrator Regan to consider the bill’s approach and invest part of the EPA’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget in resources to monitor methane emissions and enforce compliance.