NAFTA and the Border Environmental Cooperation Commission: Assessing Activism in the Environmental Infrastructure Project Certification Process (1996-2004)

Jo Marie Rios, Joseph Jozwiak


The signing of the NAFTA agreement in 1994 brought environmental problems found on the United States/Mexico border into light. The new institutions created by NAFTA, specifically the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC), were designed to encourage public participation in the environmental infrastructure certification process. Using the insights of historical institutionalism combined with contributions from organizational decision making in the context of high probability technologies, we assess three key variables: environmental infrastructure types, attributes of the community, and institutional rules. To assess the impact of these variables on the BECC certification process, content analysis was conducted on infrastructure projects in Texas and the bordering Mexican states from 1995 to 2004. The paper finds that water and wastewater treatment projects prevailed on both sides of the border with Mexico receiving a greater funding level, largely because of the BECC's top down rule-making and its technical mission. A secondary finding is that transnational environmental groups have had little impact on BECC policies.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229