The Trump administration issued a new waiver Tuesday allowing it to breach environmental laws to replace border fencing in southern California — though officials said they still intend to try to comply with as much of the law as possible.
It’s the latest use of the waiver powers, which Congress has given to the Homeland Security Department. Earlier this year the Trump administration issued waivers for San Diego to prepare for testing of prototypes for President Trump’s border wall.
In the case of Tuesday’s waivers, they will help Customs and Border Protection (CBP) replace several miles of fencing near the Calexico port of entry.
The money for that replacement project was included in the 2017 Homeland Security spending bill, and construction is expected to begin next February.
The goal is to upgrade old-style pedestrian fencing with the newer “bollard” style fence that agents say gives them more visibility for what’s happening on the other side of the border.
“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,” the department said in a statement.
“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 department said.
The new waiver applies to more than two dozen laws, including some of the country’s most iconic protections such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Antiquities Act and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The Center for Biological Diversity is challenging the use of the fence waiver in court, and said Tuesday’s decision is “illegal and unconstitutional.”
“The Trump administration is willing to ignore the law and destroy the environment in its rush to build a destructive, divisive wall that no one else wants,” said Brian Segee, a senior attorney at the center.
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