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Homeland Security to Waive Environmental Laws to Erect Border Wall

An existing wall at border of Mexico. Photo via Congress.

An existing wall at border of Mexico. Photo via Congress.


By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A stretch of border wall will be replaced without an assessment to the environment, the Trump administration announced Tuesday.
The Washington Post reports that Homeland Security plans to waive requirements under the National Environmental Protection Act, which mandates extensive reviews of environmental impacts.
Calling it an overreach, the Center for Biological Diversity in San Diego plans to challenge the decision.
The Post wrote:

It will mark the sixth time that the department has exercised that 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.

Congress passed the law to blunt similar efforts elsewhere and it led to hundreds of miles (kilometers) of new U.S.-Mexico border fencing in the final years of President George W. Bush’s administration to its current total of about 650 miles (1,040 kilometers).

Last week, the House of Representatives approved the administration’s request for $1.6 billion to start building Trump’s border wall, which would include replacing 14 miles (22 kilometers) in San Diego covered by the latest waiver and building 60 miles (96 kilometers) of new barriers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. It was unclear if or when Homeland Security would issue waivers for Texas, which is currently the busiest corridor for illegal crossings.

Trump’s Plan to Build a Wall at Mexican Border Would Skirt Federal Laws

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

By Robert J. Uram
San Francisco Chronicle

Now that the Trump transition team has signaled to congressional Republicans that the president-elect wants to seek a budget appropriation to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border and have Mexico reimburse the cost later, it’s time to think about how he might do that. As president, Donald Trump may propose that Congress give him new authority to set aside laws to expedite construction. Congress set such an ill-advised precedent when it authorized wall construction more than a decade ago. The possibility of a similar request now should concern us all.

In 2005, Congress passed the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush. Hidden away in this enormous appropriations bill was a section of the REAL ID Act of 2005, which gave the secretary of Homeland Security the unlimited right to waive “all legal requirements” he or she deems necessary to expedite the installation of border controls in areas of high illegal entry.

That included environmental protections laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. These are, perhaps, logical waivers to expedite construction of border facilities.

There is, however, nothing in the law that would have prevented setting aside other less germane laws. The secretary could have waived the Freedom of Information Act to allow the project to be built in secret — he or she is only limited by his or her imagination. Not only can federal laws be waived, but all state, local and “other laws” derived from or related to the subject of the federal laws also can be waived. All that was required was publication of the waiver in the Federal Register.

And, as it happened, the Department of Homeland Security exercised its waiver rights five times to build nearly 700 miles of border protection. Literally dozens of laws have been waived, including many environmental laws and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

But that is only half the story.

To read more click here. 

Other Stories of Interest

FBI Investigating Flint Water Crisis That Led to Thousands of Residents Being Poisoned

featured_water_13312By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI has joined the investigation into the Flint water crisis that poisoned thousands of residents with lead-contaminated drinking water while the city was under state control.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed that federal prosecutors are “working with a multi-agency investigation team on the Flint water contamination matter, including the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, EPA’s Office of Inspector General, and EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division.”

The contamination began when state officials began using the Flint River for drinking water while the city was working on a new pipeline.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House Oversight Committee is scheduled to begin its first hearing on the issue.

EPA Investigator Pleads to Lying About Affair With FBI Agent

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
A former special agent with the Environmental Protection Agency pleaded guilty Monday to lying in a civil case about having an affair with an FBI agent he was working with.

Keith Phillips, 61, of Kent, Texas, who worked in the EPA Criminal Investigation Division (CID) in Dallas, pleaded guilty in federal court in Louisiana to lying under oath and obstructing justice, the Justice Department said. The charges stemmed from his sworn testimony in a pending lawsuit in the Western District of Louisiana.

Authorities stated that Phillips and a female FBI agent from September 1996 to Dec. 14, 1999 investigated a criminal case that resulted in the indictment of Hubert Vidrine Jr. and several others.

The criminal charges against Vidrine were ultimately dismissed, and Vidrine turned around and filed a lawsuit against the federal government for malicious prosecution, authorities said.

Authorities said that during a deposition taken in Vidrine’s civil suit, agent Phillips “allegedly falsely testified that he did not have an affair with the FBI special agent, when, in fact, he did. The indictment alleges that it was material to the civil lawsuit to determine any potential motives of the criminal investigators in investigating and prosecuting the charges against Vidrine, and that Phillips committed perjury when he testified falsely about the affair and obstructed justice when he provided this false testimony.”

The indictment also alleges that he then contacted the FBI agent and tried to convince her not to confess to the affair.