In April, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) waived at least 30 key environmental laws and regulations it claimed were impeding the completion of 670 miles of border fence. Environmental groups subsequently protested the decision. Border residents have sued DHS for “hoodwink[ing] landowners into waiving their property rights.”
The El Paso Times reported yesterday that the environmental impacts of the fence were so severe that even the Environmental Protection Agency criticized it, reportedly voicing “serious concerns about how barrier fencing would affect habitat, animals and communities.”
According to documents obtained by the Sierra Club, the EPA warned DHS about the severe implications of extending the border fence. One official rated the project in the Lower Rio Grande Valley as “EC-2, Environmental Concerns-Insufficient Information”:
The draft Environmental Impact Study contains insufficient information for an adequate review. Of particular concern to EPA is the potential for long-term adverse environmental and ecological habitat impacts in the study area.
The EPA reported to DHS several deleterious impacts of the fence which DHS did not adequately consider:
— No mention of “how the wall would impact water quality.”
— No discussion of the “fence’s potential impact on migratory species or impact to their home range, in particular, large mammal species (e.g., deer or carnivores) or birds.”
— Maps created by DHS show that “the fence could run straight through houses and backyards.”
— “The fence could also cut off farmers from prime farmland close to the water.”
The EPA urged the Border Patrol to “consider alternative locations for fence placement that will result in the least impacts.” Ultimately, however, Chertoff issued “the biggest use of legal waivers since the administration started building the fence.” “From the EPA’s comments, it was clear they weren’t going to get any kind of go ahead anytime soon,” the Sierra Club noted.
Ironically, when pushing for the construction of the border fence in 2007, Chertoff remarked, “Illegal migrants really degrade the environment.”