UnGodly Gauntlet on the Rio Grande

The United States Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday announced plans to waive federal and state environmental laws in order to finish 670 miles of barriers along the US-Mexico border by the end of the year.

Environmentalists and local officials have strenuously opposed some of the planned infrastructure projects, saying they will damage the land and disrupt wildlife. But Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Tuesday that the department was committed to minimizing the impact on the environment. The draft environmental assessments, he said, show the projects will have only “insignificant impacts on the environment and cultural resources.”

Critics, however, said the waivers were intended to sidestep growing and unexpectedly fierce opposition — especially in Arizona and in Texas, where concerns have been raised about endangered species and fragile ecosystems along the Rio Grande. ”

The Bush administration’s latest waiver of environmental and other federal laws threatens the livelihoods and ecology of the entire US-Mexico border region,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. “Secretary Chertoff chose to bypass stakeholders and push through this unpopular project on April Fool’s Day. We don’t think the destruction of the borderlands region is a laughing matter.”

Richard Marosi and Nicole Gaouette, Los Angeles Times

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