Regents authorize UTEP to buy Old Asarco site

The purchase is not finalized

By: Staff Report / KVIA

EL PASO, Texas – The University of Texas Board of Regents voted Thursday to authorize the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to buy the Old Asarco site, a move that could nearly double the size of the university.

The University of Texas System Board of Regents has 10 members. The board authorized the spending of up to $17 million to buy the former site. The purchase has not been finalized.

UTEP said it wants the site, approximately 458 acres, for future expansion.

Regent Wallace Hall, of Dallas, cast the only vote against the move. “I’m not convinced how being landlocked is a sufficient reason to spend $17 million buying a brownfield site,” Hall said, “I don’t understand how it fits in with our mission to either teach more kids or really improve graduation rates at UT-El Paso. I just don’t believe they made their case on this issue.”

The 868 foot Asarco smokestack stood as a fixture of El Paso’s skyline for nearly half a century and it took just a few seconds to come crashing down. Demolition crews demolished the iconic and towering smokestack on April 13th, 2013.

In November of 2009, the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) announced the selection of Roberto Puga, of Project Navigator, as the custodial trustee to manage the remedial activities at the former smelter site.

Under the settlement agreement approved by the bankruptcy court, Asarco’s smelter property was placed in an environmental custodial trust and is managed by the custodial trustee. Additionally, $52 million was placed in an account to fund the remediation of the site.