An Arizona copper mining company is attempting to resume operations after having been shut down since 1999 when worldwide copper prices fell. But local residents, environmentalists and the El Paso City Council are opposing its permit approval due to concerns for public health.
The plant is located less than a mile from the New Mexico border where state officials said emissions had created arsenic and lead soil contamination, The Associated Press reported.
In October 2005, administrative judges ruled that Asarco’s permit should not be renewed because the company had been unable to prove it would not contribute to air pollution.
In March 2007, more than 400 ACORN members from across the state faced the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality executive director and commissioners, demanding the agency hold its final hearing in El Paso - not 600 miles away in Austin - and to deny Arasco its air permit renewal. While in the state capitol, ACORN members visited key state reps to discuss proposed legislation that would provide public health protection from copper smelters in El Paso County.
Texas ACORN members testified at a special El Paso City Council meeting May 8, following the release of the state agency’s environmental report, which recommended renewing Asarco’s permit if pollution control equipment and practices were effective. More than 3,000 people also sent public comments to the commission, demanding the permit be denied.
Throughout the week before the May 12 elections, ACORN members and staff knocked on more than 1,000 doors of registered voters in key precincts to educate them about City Council candidates’ positions on Arasco operations. More than 350 voters who had not yet been to the polls said they would vote for a pro-health candidate. Citywide turnout was 7.8 percent while the precincts where ACORN members canvassed averaged 8.7 percent.