On September 23, Sierra Club Environmental Justice organizer Mariana Chew (above) spearheaded planning and turnout for more than 1,000 people for a "Faces Against ASARCO" rally and photo (below) in El Paso, Texas. Community members from both sides of the U.S./Mexico border came together to stand united against the company's plans to reopen its copper smelter in El Paso. "The photo will be placed on a billboard in Austin for Governor [Rick] Perry to see every day," Chew says.
Photo by Robert Ardovino
The event was staged by the Concerned Citizens Against ASARCO coalition, of which the Sierra Club is a member. "The Club took a lead organizing role and provided technical support," says Chew, who was the coalition's go-to person fielding questions about evidence, documents, and studies pertaining to ASARCO. The cities of El Paso, Ciudad Juarez [Mexico], and Sunland Park [New Mexico] participated in media work leading up to the event.
"Federal legislators on both sides of the border recognized our effort and the fact that we had given them the tools to fight ASARCO on a political level," Chew says. ASARCO has a long history of polluting the communities in which it operates. The city won a lawsuit against the company in the 1970s, and the El Paso smelter closed in 1999 with myriad lawsuits still being brought against it. ASARCO applied to renew its state air permit in 2002, prompting the Sierra Club to join a lawsuit to block the move. The Club has been a leader in efforts to keep the smelter closed ever since. The permit is still pending. Read more here and here.