Good afternoon, this is your Friday Update, which takes a quick look at what El Paso Matters is keeping an eye on next week.

Two things of major interest are on Tuesday’s El Paso City Council agenda. First, in executive session, the council will discuss Max Grossman’s pending lawsuit against the city. Grossman filed the lawsuit in order to halt the demolition of the Duranguito neighborhood, which was going to be razed to make room for a Downtown arena. The lawsuit has been pending for several years and in November, the council voted to negotiate a settlement with Grossman. The lawsuit will also be discussed in executive session during the Monday morning council work session.

The other item of interest on the agenda is the transfer of the city’s recycling contract from Friedman Recycling to Waste Connections of El Paso. Friedman Recycling has operated the curbside recycling program for the City of El Paso since 2006. While the backup information on the agenda says Friedman is seeking the sale of its El Paso facility and operations to Waste Connections of El Paso, the company was sold earlier this year.

At the courthouse, the El Paso County Commissioners will meet at 9:30 a.m. Monday to discuss a free fare ride program to help the community cope with increasing gasoline prices. If approved, the county’s transit system will offer free rides on county buses through the end of fiscal year 2022. The loss in revenue is estimated at about $35,000.

Several environmental nonprofits filed a March 18 lawsuit over a federal license issued for a proposed private nuclear storage facility near Andrews, Texas, which is about an hour east of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The facility, which has yet to be built, could hold up to 40,000 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel and highly radioactive waste.

Nonprofit Beyond Nuclear and eight environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit saying the license violates federal laws because it allows the Department of Energy to place waste (called “spent fuel”) at the facility. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 requires the federal government to open a permanent repository for its nuclear waste before it can be stored in a private facility. No such repository exists.

Kevin Kamps, a radioactive waste specialist with Beyond Nuclear, said the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission ignored safety, legal and environmental impacts raised during the licensing process, making the courts the “only avenue left.”

“The NRC seems to be violating its own mandate. It is so in favor of these proposals that they will do anything to approve them — including breaking the law.” Kamps said.

An oral argument hasn’t been scheduled and is expected at earliest for late summer or early autumn. 

El Paso Animal Services is offering free pet vaccinations and microchips at its Sunday, March 27, drive-thru wellness clinic. The event is first-come, first-served and limited to the first 500 pets. Dogs will receive a parvo/distemper vaccination, while cats will receive a feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia (FVRCP) vaccination. Both will be given a microchip. Pets must be at least six weeks old to receive vaccines. No other pet vaccinations will be available at this event. The clinic will be from 8 a.m. to noon Sunday at 301 George Perry Blvd.

Thursday, March 31, is Cesar Chavez Day. That means some government offices and businesses will close for the holiday and some will not. The University of Texas at El Paso observed Cesar Chave Day today, therefore, the university will be open next Thursday. The County will be closed on Thursday. City offices will be open, as will all the school districts. In Texas, the day is an optional holiday so please check with the state office before going. Cesar Chavez was a farmworker, labor leader and civil rights activist who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association.

Cover photo: The City of El Paso owns most of the property in the Duranguito neighborhood, which it has identified as the site of a planned multipurpose performing arts center. (Robert Moore/El Paso Matters)