Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Department of Homeland Security Waives Environmental Laws To Build Border Fence

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced today its intent to issue waivers of certain laws to expedite security improvements at the southwest border. Congress gave the Secretary of Homeland Security authority to waive all legal requirements necessary to expeditiously install additional physical barriers and roads at the border to deter illegal activity. One waiver applies to certain environmental and land management laws for various project areas in Calif., Ariz., N.M., and Texas, encompassing roughly 470 total miles. In addition to environmental and land management laws, this waiver addresses other legal and administrative impediments to completing this project by the end of the calendar year.

The waivers are permitted under an exemption granted by Congress under the Real ID Act of 2005, but Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss), who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, disagrees with the waivers and believes the administration exceeded Congressional intent. The use of the waiver authority means that the agency will not have to conduct detailed reviews of how the fence's components will affect wildlife, water quality and vegetation in the area where it is to be built. The Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife have filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of the waiver provision. They believe the fence will disrupt the migrations of various animals and threatens endangered species. (The Washington Post)

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