Walls And Waivers: Expedited Construction Of The Southern Border Wall And The Collateral Impacts On Communities And The Environment

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 28 Apr 2008 14:00:00 GMT


Panel I

  • Rick Schultz, National Borderland Coordinator, Department of the Interior
  • Ronald D. Vitiello, Chief Patrol Agent, Rio Grande Valley Sector, Office of Border Patrol, United States Customs and Border Patrol, United States Department of Homeland Security
  • The Honorable Chad Foster, Mayor, City of Eagle Pass, Texas
  • Ned Norris Jr., Chairman, Tohono O’odham Nation
  • Juliet V. Garcia, Ph.D, President, University of Texas at Brownsville and Southmost College
Panel 2
  • The Most Rev. Raymundo J. Pena, Bishop of Brownsville
  • Betty Perez, Local private land owner
  • Rosemary Jenks, Director, Government Relations, NumbersUSA
  • Joan Neuhaus Schaan, Executive Director, Houston-Harris County Regional Homeland Security Advisory Council
Panel 3
  • John McClung, President and CEO, Texas Produce Association
  • Ken Merritt, Private Citizen Laura Peterson, Senior Policy Advisor, Taxpayers for Common Sense
  • Zack Taylor, Supervisory Border Patrol Agent (Retired)

Lecture Hall Science, Engineering and Technology Building (SET-B) University of Texas-Brownsville

E&E News:
Two House subcommittees will be in Texas today to discuss the implications of the Homeland Security Department’s decision to bypass environmental laws and begin construction of 267 miles of fence along the U.S-Mexico border.

The House’s National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee and Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee will hold their joint field hearing at the University of Texas in Brownsville to hear from witnesses about the effect constructing a border fence will have on the environment and communities along the border.

Earlier this month, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced plans to use his authority under REAL ID to dismiss all environmental laws so it can finish building 470 miles of border fence by year’s end.

The waiver would allow the federal government to sidestep the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Coastal Zone Management Act and other cultural and environmental laws and regulations.

Officials at the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge in Texas have told Chertoff he would need to invoke his waiver authority to build the fence through the refuge, because the project would conflict with the refuge’s mission to protect important cross-border wildlife migration corridors.

Chertoff has previously invoked environmental exemptions for two other sections of the fence. The most recent waiver is by far the largest to date (Land Letter, April 3).

“The decision to invoke a waiver for fence construction will devastate the region and is an insult to those of us who live near the border,” Parks Subcommittee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said last week. “This administration believes that it is above the laws that protect the environment, health and human safety of border communities.”

Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club have challenged the REAL ID provision in court, and 14 members of Congress, including the chairmen of the Energy & Commerce, Homeland Security, Judiciary, Transportation, Rules, Intelligence, Veterans Affairs and Education and Labor committees, have indicated they wish to file an amicus curiae brief asking the Supreme Court to hear the case (E&E Daily, April 8).

The hearing will also touch on Grijalva’s H.R. 2593, to allow DHS to determine the best approach to securing a particular area of the border, ranging from fences to detection technologies such as cameras and sensors to other options, and calls for full public input. It would also fund mitigation initiatives to address environmental impacts. It would also repeal the wavier authority granted to Chertoff under REAL ID.