Quantcast
Animals
A section of the existing border fence between Arizona and Mexico. Gary Goodenough, Flickr

Homeland Security Will Waive Environmental Laws to Rush Border Wall Construction

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Tuesday it will exempt itself from having to comply with environmental and other laws to "ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads" near the U.S.-Mexico border south of San Diego, despite vehement objections from environmental groups that President Trump's proposed project could endanger critical habitats and ignores public input.


DHS said it will publish the waiver in "the coming days" in the Federal Register. The waiver focuses on an approximately 15-mile segment of the border within the San Diego Sector and exempts the government from the National Environmental Protection Act—a critical mandate for any federal department or agency to properly consider the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that significantly affects the environment.

"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 agency said. "To begin to meet the need for additional border infrastructure in this area, DHS will implement various border infrastructure projects."

Associated Press noted that this is the sixth time DHS has exercised this authority since 2005 and the first time since 2008.

"A law passed in 2005 gave Homeland Security broad authority to waive 'all legal requirements' to build border barriers following years of ultimately unsuccessful court challenges to border wall construction in San Diego on grounds that it violated environmental laws," according to the AP.

The Center for Biological Diversity—which sued the Trump administration in April for failing to perform any environmental impact studies or release any information about the project—stressed that the waiver would speed construction of replacement walls, 30-foot-high prototypes, roads, lighting and other infrastructure without any analysis of the environmental impacts.

"The area of south San Diego is surrounded by hundreds of communities and contains critical habitat for several endangered species," the group explained.

A May 2017 study from the Center for Biological Diversity found that that the border wall threatens 93 endangered and threatened species, including jaguars, ocelots, Mexican gray wolves and cactus ferruginous pygmy owls. The study also found that 25 threatened or endangered species have designated "critical habitat" on the border, including more than 2 million acres within 50 miles of the border.

Brian Segee, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, also called the waiver unconstitutional.

"This isn't just a wall they're in a rush to build. It's roads, lighting and all of the infrastructure that comes with it. All of this without any environmental review or public input. It's a travesty and it has to be stopped," Segee said. "We believe the waiver is unconstitutional, and we're confident the courts will agree."

"Trump wants to scare people into letting him ignore the law and endanger wildlife and people," he added. "Trump's wall is a divisive symbol of fear and hatred, and it does real harm to the landscape and communities."

President Trump issued an executive order in January directing DHS to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Just last week, the House of Representatives approved a spending bill with $1.6 billion put towards the controversial project.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
The Vanderford glacier in East Antarctica is one of four that is beginning to melt, according to NASA. Angela Wylie / Fairfax Media / Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Melting Discovered in East Antarctic Region Holding Ice 'Equivalent to Four Greenlands'

Ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica have been melting at alarming rates in recent years, but at least the glaciers of East Antarctica were believed to be relatively stable. Until now. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists have discovered that glaciers covering one-eighth of Antarctica's eastern coast have lost ice in the past 10 years. If the region keeps melting, it has enough ice in its drainage basins to add 28 meters (approximately 92 feet) to global sea level rise, BBC News reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
In 2018, the Arctic region had the second-lowest overall sea-ice coverage on record. NOAAPMEL / YouTube

The Past 5 Years Were the Arctic's Warmest on Record

The Arctic is still warming at twice the rate of anywhere else on Earth, and the region's air temperatures in the past five years between 2014-2018 have exceeded all previous records since 1900, according to a peer-reviewed report released by the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Tuesday.

The agency's 13th annual Arctic Report Card also concluded that 2018 was second only to 2016 in terms of the region's overall warmth.

Keep reading... Show less
Science
Partial solar eclipse. ndersbknudsen, CC BY 2.0

3 Key Dangers of Solar Geoengineering and Why Some Critics Urge a Global Ban

By Justin Mikulka

A Harvard research team recently announced plans to perform early tests to shoot sunlight-reflecting particles into the high atmosphere to slow or reverse global warming.

These research efforts, which could take shape as soon as the first half of 2019, fall under the banner of a geoengineering technology known as solar radiation management, which is sometimes called "sun dimming."

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Even an increase of 2°C would cause significant sea level rise. pxhere

Report: Current Climate Policies Will Warm the World by 3.3˚C

This past October, a widely disseminated United Nations report warned that far-reaching and significant climate impacts will already occur at 1.5˚C of warming by 2100.

But in a study released Tuesday, researchers determined that the current climate polices of governments around the world will push Earth towards 3.3˚C of warming. That's more than two times the aspirational 1.5˚C target adopted by nearly 200 nations under the 2015 Paris agreement.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
garett_mosher / iStock / Getty Images

McDonald's to Reduce Antibiotics Use in Beef

In a significant win in the fight to save antibiotics, McDonald's—the largest and most iconic burger chain on the planet—announced Tuesday that it will address the use of antibiotics in its international supply chain for beef by 2021.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
Protesters clash with riot police on Foch avenue next to the Place de l'Etoile, setting cars ablaze during a Yellow Vest protest on Dec. 1 in Paris. Etienne De Malglaive / Getty Images

The Lesson From a Burning Paris: We Can’t Tax Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis

By Wenonah Hauter

The images from the streets of Paris over the past weeks are stark and poignant: thousands of angry protesters, largely representing the struggling French working class, resorting to mass civil unrest to express fear and frustration over a proposed new gas tax. For the moment, the protests have been successful. French President Emmanuel Macron backed off the new tax proposal, at least for six months. The popular uprising won, seemingly at the expense of the global fight against climate change and the future wellbeing of our planet.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Rainbow Mountains in Vinicuna, Perú. Megan Lough / UI International Programs / CC BY-ND 2.0

7 Reasons Why #Mountains Matter

December 11 is International Mountain Day, an annual occasion designated by the United Nations to celebrate Earth's precious mountains.

Mountains aren't just a sight to behold—they cover 22 percent of the planet's land surface and provide habitat for plants, animals and about 1 billion human beings. The vital landforms also supply critical resources such as fresh water, food and even renewable energy.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Tetra Images / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Don’t Stress About What Kind of Christmas Tree to Buy, but Reuse Artificial Trees and Compost Natural Ones

By Bert Cregg

Environmentally conscious consumers often ask me whether a real Christmas tree or an artificial one is the more sustainable choice. As a horticulture and forestry researcher, I know this question is also a concern for the Christmas tree industry, which is wary of losing market share to artificial trees.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!