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The U.S. Senate voted 59 to 41 Thursday to overturn President Donald Trump's emergency declaration to fund a border wall that would threaten 93 endangered species and devastate the environment and communities of the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
The Senate vote comes a little over two weeks after a similar vote by the House of Representatives. Trump announced his intention to "VETO!" the resolution on Twitter Thursday, and Congress needs a two-thirds majority to override a veto, which is seen as unlikely. Nevertheless, the Senate vote will be seen as an embarrassment for the president, BBC News reported.
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EcoWatch has already reported on its biggest ask — $8.6 billion in funding for a border wall that would threaten borderland wildlife and communities — but the budget has been equally criticized for what it would cut, including a 31 percent decrease in funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a nine to 14 percent decrease for the Department of the Interior (DOI).
House Passes Resolution Against Trump's 'National Emergency' to Fund Border Wall That Endangers 90+ Species
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution Tuesday to overturn President Donald Trump's emergency declaration to fund the construction of a border wall that would put 93 endangered species at risk. Trump issued the declaration to secure around $8 billion in funding for the wall after a bipartisan spending bill passed by Congress Feb. 15 allocated only $1.375 billion to border security. Trump had originally requested $5.7 billion for the wall during a stand-off with Congress that resulted in the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
Trump made the announcement minutes before the House and Senate began voting on a bipartisan spending package that would keep the federal government open without allocating money for the wall, avoiding another government shutdown. The measure passed both houses, and Trump said he would sign it, but not without also declaring an emergency to secure around $8 billion in wall funding, something he could do as early as Friday, The New York Times reported.
In a 2-1 decision (pdf), the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an earlier district court ruling that determined the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has broad authority under the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to waive statutes such as the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act and many more environmental rules to build border barriers.
Drone footage of new border wall in New Mexico shows that the Trump administration's border militarization is already damaging ecosystems and wildlife. Trump waived 25 laws that protect clean air, clean water, public lands and endangered wildlife to speed construction of 20 miles of new walls.
The video, taken by the Center for Biological Diversity and available for media use, shows the 18-foot-tall bollard-style barrier constructed in the remote Chihuahuan Desert. The wall replaced waist-high vehicle barriers that allowed wildlife to move back and forth across the border.
The former coal lobbyist, who critics say is even worse for the environment than his scandal-plagued predecessor Scott Pruitt, secured a key approval by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Tuesday, sending President Trump's nominee to the full Senate for approval.
Trump Nominates ‘Walking Conflict of Interest’ David Bernhardt to Permanently Replace Zinke as Interior Secretary
Conservation groups filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' approval of a permit that allows a huge master-planned sprawl development project near Benson, Arizona to proceed. The Villages at Vigneto would transform 12,167 acres of largely undeveloped habitat into 28,000 residences, 3 million square feet of commercial space, four golf courses, fountains, lakes and a resort.
The yearly count of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico, released Wednesday, shows an increase of 144 percent from last year's count and is the highest count since 2006. That's good news for a species whose numbers had fallen in recent years, but conservationists say the monarch continues to need Endangered Species Act protection.
The count of 6.05 hectares of occupied forest is up from 2.48 hectares last winter. The increase is attributable to favorable weather during the spring and summer breeding seasons and during the fall migration. Monarchs have lost an estimated 165 million acres of breeding habitat in the U.S. to herbicide spraying and development.