The Trump administration is determined to speed up the construction of the US-Mexico border wall, and has coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to waive restrictive environmental laws that were threatening to bring construction to a stand-still.
In a recent announcement, DHS confirmed that they will be waiving numerous environmental laws for the construction of the border wall in order to, “ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads” along the US-Mexico border in south of San Diego.
A DHS spokesman noted that, “Last fiscal year 2016, Customs and Border Patrol apprehended more than 31,000 illegal aliens and seized about 1,300 pounds of cocaine just in the San Diego sector alone.”
The sector remains an area of high illegal entry for which there is an immediate need to improve current infrastructure and construct additional border barriers and roads,” the DHS stated. “To begin to meet the need for additional border infrastructure in this area, DHS will implement various border infrastructure projects.”
It has been noted that, although the George W. Bush administration had made use of the waiver quite a handful of times, the the Obama administration didn’t use it even once. The Trump administration had been looking forward to using this waiver power to deliver on key campaign promises .
While the then-Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelly has now been assigned the position of chief of staff, it was Kelly who signed the order to limit the number of environmental laws applicable on the 15 mile-border segment in San Diego.
The DHS stated that the San Diego border area “remains an area of high illegal entry for which there is an immediate need to improve current infrastructure and construct additional border barriers and road.” And that, “While the waiver eliminates DHS’s obligation to comply with various laws with respect to covered projects, the department remains committed to environmental stewardship with respect to these projects,” it said. “DHS has been coordinating and consulting — and intends to continue doing so — with other federal and state resource agencies to ensure impacts to the environment, wildlife, and cultural and historic artifacts are analyzed and minimized, to the extent possible.”
The waiver exempts construction from such restrictions as appear in laws like the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Solid Waste Disposal Act.
However, not all are pleased with this move. The Center for Biological Diversity and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sued DHS this year, and Brian Segee, their attorney argued that “Bulldozing beloved wildlife refuges won’t make us safer, but it will enrage people across the country.”