Border Field State Park in San Diego, California. Playas de Tijuana, Mexico is on the other side of the wall. Source: Flickr

In summary

The Trump administration intends to waive dozens of environmental laws so it can more speedily begin building a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Trump administration intends to waive dozens of environmental laws so it can more speedily begin building a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced yesterday that it would not be following rules that require environmental review to upgrade fencing and build prototypes across a 15-mile stretch of the wall in San Diego, coincidentally where a barrier already exists. The decision was signed by former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly last week. Among the regulations the agency will bypass are the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Solid Waste Disposal Act.

Critics say the plan could be “catastrophic” for the environment and say the waiver is unconstitutional and intend to fight it. The Center for Biological Diversity has already filed a lawsuit over the issue and expects an additional review of the plan under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Border Field State Park in San Diego, California. Playas de Tijuana, Mexico is on the other side of the wall. Photo via Flickr

The Department of Homeland Security said that without the waiver, the project would not be able to begin in December, as planned. Instead biological surveys would have to be done and that could push the start date to next summer.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, who joined the Center for Biological Diversity in its lawsuit, contended that “doing away with environmental and public health laws that ensure clean air and clean water jeopardizes the very people, values and homeland that DHS claims to protect.”

The area where the wall is set to be built includes wetlands and rare wildlife habitat, and runs from the Pacific Ocean eastward.

In a statement, Homeland Security officials said the area “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.”

Trump had promised that he would make Mexico pay for the wall, which Mexico predictably refused to do. Last week the U.S. House of Representatives voted to appropriate $1.6 billion to begin the construction.

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Elizabeth Aguilera

Elizabeth Aguilera is an award-winning multimedia journalist who covers health and social services for CalMatters. She joined CalMatters in 2016 from Southern California Public Radio/KPCC 89.3 where she...