By Jessica Goad
This afternoon the House of Representatives is considering H.R. 2578, a package of public lands bills that contains a provision from Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) giving U.S. Customs and Border Protection authority to shut down any economic or recreational activity within 100 miles of the northern and southern U.S. borders if deemed necessary for securing them.
The section also rolls back more than 30 environmental and public health laws within the 100-mile zone including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Park Service Organic Act that helps protect and preserve national parks (see full list here).
Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) dubbed the provision a “drone zone” bill and explained at a press conference today that:
It essentially will be a national sacrifice zone where our rights, our liberties, and our environment can be sacrificed for the sake of an ideological anti-immigrant, anti-environment agenda. Make no mistake, this isn’t a bill that actually addresses immigration issues.
Unrelatedly, but ironically, last week the right-wing media reported that the Environmental Protection Agency was using drones to spy on Midwestern ranchers. In actuality, the EPA has for many years used manned flyovers (not drones) to crack down on pollution.
The provision in the package of bills being voted on today, known as the “National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act” (Title XIV), was ostensibly designed to address immigration and drug trafficking issues. However, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stated that the bill as introduced is “unnecessary, and it’s a bad policy.”
At the press conference a coalition of 51 Latino and environmental groups released a letter decrying the provision saying it:
…would sacrifice the rights of Americans to use their land and flout the environmental laws that protect it, all to advance an anti-immigrant, anti-privacy and anti-regulatory agenda.
Other pieces in the package of bills being voted on today include a measure to privatize prime public lands in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, roll back protections for a wild and scenic river in California, and eliminate protections for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina.
Tomorrow, the House takes up a package of seven bills to promote more oil and gas drilling on public lands across America.
Jessica is the Manager of Research and Outreach for the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.