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House Committee Passes Bill to Ease Environmental Regulations Limiting Border Patrol

"The policies of the United States unfortunately and unwittingly make it easier for illegals to come across public lands."

  • Border Patrol has to follow certain rules and regulations to protect that environment, occasionally hampering its own duties.
  • Last year, border patrol paid the Department of the Interior $50 million for environmental "mitigation".
  • The House Natural Resources Committee approved a bill to waive environmental regulation within 100 miles of the border on public land.
  • A companion bill has yet to be introduced in the Senate.

The Border Patrol, under the Department of Homeland Security, is often unable to adequately do its job because of 36 environmental regulations and other laws. When it can and does do its job, it later pays for environmental damage.

Republicans have long thought this as backward -- the fact that some are more willing to protect plants and animals than it is its borders -- and have tried to pass exemptions in the past with little success. But, yesterday a House committee passed a proposal that would allow border patrol to conduct its business without environmental regulation within 100 miles of the border. Opposing Democrats and environmental groups say the bill would have little to do with border patrol and more to do with reversing years of protective regulation.

Fox News has more:

"The policies of the United States unfortunately and unwittingly make it easier for illegals to come across public lands," Bishop said Wednesday at a House Natural Resources Committee meeting.

The committee afterward approved the bill on a 26-17 straight party-line vote. A companion bill has not yet been introduced on the Senate side.

"People are dying on the border, (plant and animal) species are being destroyed by the drug cartels," Bishop said. "We have basically ignored that."

[...]

A government report last year found environmental rules were in some cases holding up security projects for months while the Department of Homeland Security continues to pay millions to the departments Interior and Agriculture to compensate for expected environmental damage.

Last year, Fox News reported that border patrol duties and infrastructure, like fence construction, resulted in necessity of a $50 million deal between border patrol and the Department of the Interior for environmental "mitigation." At that time, Bishop said this didn't even guarantee border patrol full access the public land; agents still have to follow certain rules to drive on the land.

The Pew Environmental Group opposes the House action on the bill because it would be a threat to the 'bedrock' of environmental protection that has protect the health and well-being of Americans:

"Improving national security and border protection is critical to our country, but waiving core conservation measures will not accomplish this goal," [Jane Danowitz, Pew Environment Group’s director of U.S. public lands, said in a statement.]

“The bill’s reach is unprecedented. It would allow a single federal agency the authority to waive clean air and water laws, as well as those that protect parks and other public lands. It would leave Congress and the public without a voice, even though at stake are hundreds of popular destinations including Glacier and Big Bend National Parks, the Great Lakes, and Boundary Waters Wilderness.

Cronkite News includes commentary from the Sierra Club:

“It’s horrible; it’s unbelievable,” said Dan Millis, borderlands campaign organizer for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon chapter. “Those of us who live on the southern border have seen what these waivers have done, the environmental damage that occurs.”

Areas along the U.S.-Mexico border are already exempt from many environmental protections under similar waivers. Millis said walls and infrastructure built under those provisions have caused flooding and eroded ranch land.

While environmental groups see damage to the environment by the wall and border patrol activities, others say the effects of those crossing the border is worse. Cronkite News continues:

But the environmental impact of smugglers and people who cross the border illegally is worse than anything the Border Patrol might do, said Patrick Bray, executive vice president of the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association. He said border-crossers leave behind large amounts of trash, including numerous bicycles and, in some cases, automobiles.

“The damages created by (illegal border-crossers) are far more than what the Border Patrol could do,” he said.

Bray said dealing with the land-management agencies still causes plenty of snags for agents, and that brings the Border Patrol agents to ask private landowners to help them instead.

“It puts it upon the private citizens,” he said.

Still, environmental groups and Democrats don't just see this as a measure to help protect the country's borders. The Hill reported Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, likening it to a Trojan horse that would get in and attack environmental protections.

One last thing…
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