Texas agency approves dump for foreign, toxic waste in Laredo
By Terri Hall
April 14, 2016
In a move that threatens the health, safety, and sovereignty of South Texans, the state’s environmental policemen, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), granted preliminary approval for a toxic waste dump to failed toll road developer Carlos ‘C.Y.’ Benavides III, whose last deal in South Texas, the Camino Columbia toll road in Laredo, went bankrupt. According to the San Antonio Express-News, the facility known as the Pescadito Environmental Resource Center is designed to accept waste across an 800-mile perimeter. Yet the region has excess landfill capacity — 138-year capacity according to the South Texas Council of Governments — making this landfill clearly binational aimed at accepting toxic, foreign waste from deep inside Mexico.
Benavides’ last big venture, the 21.8-mile Camino Columbia toll road, connected Laredo, Texas, with the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. It quickly failed to live up to traffic expectations and the $90 million private toll road landed in bankruptcy court where the state paid $12 million for it. However, Texas taxpayers, national banks, and other companies still lost $75 million in unpaid project debt.
With such a financial flop on his last public-private project, it raises concerns about the viability of this landfill and who will actually benefit from it. South Texas residents do not need another landfill, yet they’ll bear the brunt of this industrial toxic waste from Mexican oil fields. The facility could bring up to two million tons of waste per year into Texas. The 800-mile perimeter would also include eleven other U.S. states, including Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.
The TCEQ issued a draft permit for the dump last week, despite vehement public opposition. The public may get a chance to officially weigh-in at another public hearing now that the dump appears on track for final approval. The last public hearing on the project was in 2013. TCEQ tends to approve most permits for landfills, with very few ever denied.
“This toxic waste dump developer has a record fo business failures, including a private toll road that went bankrupt…We urge state leaders and environmental regulators to stop this failed toll road developer from building a massive waste dump…,” voiced Arturo Benavides, Jr., a local rancher who’s property borders the site.
Adjacent landowners naturally object to the dump, but the fact it will harm the community so a foreign company can import Mexican and out-of-state toxic waste into South Texas strikes a nerve beyond just immediate neighbors. At least one state legislator, Senator Judith Zaffirini, has called for more public hearings, which will likely trigger at least one.
The facility would be located near Highway 59 in Webb County. The plan is to accept waste via truck and rail. KGNS-TV indicates it would be located near Kansas City Southern’s (KCS) rail line, making it an ideal epicenter for Gulf states as well as Mexico. KCS has transnational ownership operating in Mexico as Kansas City Southern de Mexico.
Kansas City is already on the radar for its centrally located KC SmartPort, which is an inland port well inside the interior of the United States that is a hub for KCS. Inland ports, also called dry ports or intermodal hubs, have direct connections to seaports via rail and have the same functions as a seaport, like customs clearance, maintenance and storage of containers, and centralized transportation connections for those containers throughout North America.
The Mexican customs office within the KC SmartPort is considered sovereign Mexican territory within the United States’ borders. The port was established to boost international trade by moving cargo and customs inspections into what are known as Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs) with tremendous tax and duty benefits that domestic companies do not enjoy. Inland ports facilitate the further economic integration of the U.S. with Canada and Mexico. KC SmartPort boasts its rail lines are part of the NAFTA superhighway for freight movement. Given that Missouri is one of the states that the Pescadito Environmental Resource Center will accept waste from, Benavides’ facility could well import industrial waste from Canada via its KC SmartPort and KCS rail lines in particular.
There are eleven inland ports in the United States with three in Texas: Beeville, Dallas, and San Antonio. Huntsville, Alabama also has an inland port and is one of the states Pescadito Environmental Resource Center will accept waste from. Benavides’ is just the latest player in the march to ship goods, in this case toxic waste, into and throughout the U.S. for the benefit of international interests. But he’s sure to encounter a Texas-sized revolt.