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Climate activists protest proposed fracking plant for Northeast El Paso

Veronica+Carbajal%2C+a+candidate+for+mayor+of+El+Paso%2C+protesting+proposed+energy+plant+at+San+Jacinto+Plaza.
Maria Salette Ontiveros
Veronica Carbajal, a candidate for mayor of El Paso, protesting proposed energy plant at San Jacinto Plaza.

A crowd of about 40 people gathered to protest El Paso Electric’s plan to construct a new fracked-gas generator plant in Northeast El Paso Sept. 21 at San Jacinto Plaza.

According to a public statement by the utility company, the estimated construction of the plant is expected to cost more than $157 million and the purpose of the project is to ensure reliability, replace older generation units and to establish “additional long-term energy supply resources.”

Climate activists say the proposed Newman Unit 6 plant would further damage the city’s already feeble air quality by emitting massive amounts of carbon dioxide greenhouse gasses.

El Paso’s air quality is “poor” based on air quality measurements because “the air has reached a high level of pollution and is unhealthy for sensitive groups,” according to accuweather.com.

The demonstration followed social distancing guidelines and was organized by Sunrise El Paso, a local movement that aims to make climate change an urgent priority in local politics. The group attempts this by increasing public awareness on the influence of fossil fuels in the region and by pushing elected officials to push for climate change solutions.

“Every one of us standing here has an opportunity to reject the climate crisis, to reject the climate apocalypse, and to invest in our communities,” Sunrise El Paso co-founder Miguel Escoto said. “That is what we’re marching for today.”

The protest began with one hour of sign making, then a call to action from prominent speakers including City Councilmember Alexsandra Annello and El Paso mayoral candidate Veronica Carbajal.

This was followed by a march to the Chase Building in Downtown El Paso on 301 North Oregon St. and finally to the El Paso Electric building on 100 North Stanton St.

Earlier this year, El Paso Electric was bought out by the JP Morgan Chase-affiliated Infrastructure Investment Fund, or IIF, despite the pushback from Sunrise and other local coalitions like Earthworks and Familias Unidas de Chamizal.

The region’s largest utility company is now under private control by IIF.

“What we need is affordable electricity. What we need is access. What we need is for our elders and our low-income families to not have to decide between (paying) their electric bill (or) food,” Carbajal said.

Activists say the Permian Basin Pipeline is already one of El Paso’s largest air pollutants, but if built, the Newman 6 plant would produce emissions exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality standards over 18 times.

“That is why it is so important for us to keep fighting at the federal level, at the state level, at the local level,” Carbajal said, further echoed the distrust of JP Morgan Chase and called for the rejection of the Newman 6 plant. “This may happen with or without your consent. But you have to be vigilant.”

Back in February, Annello was one of just two City Councilmembers that voted against the agreement that allowed the sale of El Paso Electric to an investment arm of JP Morgan Chase.

“It doesn’t have to come to this. You can have a city government, a Public Utility Commission and an El Paso Electric Company who responds to you before it gets here,” Annello said.

“We’re here to rally around our greatest allies and bring attention to the fact that there is a problem, but there is a solution,” Sunrise organizer Andrew James Torres said. “The solution will come when we have elected officials who will actually listen to us.”

Margaret Cataldi may be reached at [email protected]; @MargaretCataldi on Twitter.

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About the Contributors
Margaret Cataldi
Margaret Cataldi is a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso majoring in Multimedia Journalism and minoring in Philosophy. She is the Multimedia Editor at the Prospector where she oversees the creation of video content. She also produces the Prospector Podcast, a bi-weekly show that covers current events affecting the student body and the broader borderland community. Margaret enjoys investigating current events in news, politics and entertainment and analyzing how these topics intersect and shape society as a whole. After graduation, she plans to continue her education by pursuing a Master's degree in Sociology.
Maria Salette Ontiveros
Maria Salette Ontiveros is a Graduate Student in The University of Texas at El Paso mastering in Arts of Communication. She contributes at The Prospector as a photographer. She has a Multimedia Journalism Degree with a minor in Creative Writing. She hopes to become a social media manager or join the field of broadcast  covering news,  entertainment, and sports. She plays professional basketball in Ciudad Juarez and likes to play volleyball as a hobby.
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Climate activists protest proposed fracking plant for Northeast El Paso