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E&C Dems Blast Decision to Waive Environmental Laws for Border Wall Construction

Aug 4, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ),  Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Congressman Scott Peters (D-CA) sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Elaine Duke today raising a series of questions following the agency’s announcement to waive a number of environmental laws in the name of expediting construction of President Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall.  The waiver applies to a 15-mile border segment near the San Diego, California area.

“This action has the potential to block more than 30 laws that currently protect the people of San Diego and the delicate environment in the surrounding area,” the members wrote to DHS Acting Secretary Duke.  “Despite the serious public health risks posed by this action and the potential for permanent damage, it is not clear what analysis was done to establish that a waiver of numerous environmental laws is needed.  The waiver authority granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security is predicated on the waivers being necessary to expedite border construction projects.  But most of the requirements of the waived statutes have no relationship to the timing or speed of such projects.”

To better understand DHS’s decision to waive these environmental safeguards, the Democrats are requesting documents and answers to a series of questions, including:

  • All documents, including emails and other correspondence, pertaining to the timing of Secretary Kelly’s departure from DHS and the issuance of this waiver.
  • An explanation of why the Safe Drinking Water Act is being waived, and the potential impacts from this activity on drinking water sources.
  • An explanation of why the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is being waived, and whether DHS anticipates disposing solid or hazardous waste without permits.
  • An explanation of why the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) is being waived, and whether the intent is to exempt DHS from having to cleanup any hazardous substances released as a part of these projects.
  • Whether the Clean Air Act is being waived because these projects would significantly increase air pollution in the San Diego area for lead, particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and/or carbon monoxide. 

A copy of the letter to DHS is available here