EXCLUSIVE: New Mexico port braces for growth with new HAZMAT facility


Santa Teresa to become alternative for hazardous cargo crossing border through densely populated El Paso-Juarez

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A border crossing in the New Mexico desert has become America’s fifth-busiest commercial port of entry and is bracing for more growth by welcoming trucks with hazardous cargo.

The New Mexico Legislature last month approved funding for a hazardous materials spill-containment area at the Santa Teresa port of entry, turning it into an alternative for thousands of trucks now crossing the border at densely populated El Paso and Juarez.

“Ysleta-Zaragoza is the only HAZMAT port in region. This would make us the only other HAZMAT eligible port. We see that as good potential for the region and an opportunity for us to increase commercial traffic by 25 to 30 percent,” said Marco A. Grajeda, executive director of the New Mexico Border Authority.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that Santa Teresa officials are working on obtaining the hazardousmaterials designation by Oct. 1 and becoming a relief alternative for the Ysleta Port of Entry.

“We’re seeing that Ysleta is saturated, there’s really not much room for growth there, so this would create a reliever route … if there’s a big line at Ysleta, they would come here,” Grajeda said.

One particular area of opportunity is with tanker trucks taking gasoline into Mexico, he said. “We see a lot of potential in the fuel side now that Mexico has opened up its market for fuel,” he said.

Graphic courtesy U.S. Energy Information Administration

Despite having enormous oil reserves, Mexico struggles to meet domestic demand for gasoline and its refineries are both overwhelmed and in need of modernization, according to trade reports.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says Mexico’s need of U.S. diesel, gasoline, crude and other petroleum products has skyrocketed in the past 16 years, from about 200,000 barrels a day to 1.3 million today.

Santa Teresa, New Mexico is not the fifth-busiest commercial border crossing in the United States. (photo by Julian Resendiz/Border Report)

The spill-containment area is to be built on the north side of the Santa Teresa port where there is nothing but desert. The nearest residential areas are miles away on the U.S. side and virtually non-existent on the Mexican side.

Jerry Pacheco, president and CEO of the Border Industrial Association, described the HAZMAT facility as “a place for trucks to park” in case of a leak.

“A lot of what’s deemed hazardous materials could be anything from toothpaste to bulk soda syrup, but a lot of that stuff is restricted going through our port of entry because of lack of HAZMAT infrastructure, so it’s very important that we did get that money in this legislative session,” Pacheco said.

The state provided $300,000 in funding for the “HazMat Pit,” which is enough to get the project started, both sources said. The facility should be completed by November, Grajeda said.

“It’s a very small investment that will have a large impact both on Santa Teresa and on New Mexico. We’re really excited. This is going to be a great investment for the region,” he said.

The Santa Teresa port of entry in 2019 surpassed Eagle Pass, Texas in imports and Hidalgo, Texas in exports to become the nation’s fifth-busiest port of entry in total trade, according to recent U.S. Census and Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The nine busiest commercial ports of entry in the Southwest border. (Graphic courtesy BIA)

The port last year handled $16.4 billion in imported goods and materials coming from Mexico and sent over $14.1 billion. The majority of both the exports and imports were computers, computer parts and components. Just across the border from Santa Teresa sits a huge Foxconn plant that assembles computers.

“What is driving that export growth is the Santa Teresa Industrial base. Our exports to Mexico are essentially New Mexico’s exports, so we’re driving that,” said Pacheco, whose Santa Teresa-based nonprofit has been a catalyst for industrial development on the Mexico-New Mexico border for more than two decades.

Visit the BorderReport.com homepage for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border.

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