Pew Criticizes House Action to Waive Environmental Laws Within 100 Miles of U.S. Borders

Jane Danowitz, Pew Environment Group’s director of U.S. public lands, issued the following statement in response to today’s House Natural Resources Committee 26-17 vote to approve H.R. 1505, the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act. The proposed legislation would waive 36 environmental and other laws for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol activities on public lands within 100 miles of U.S. borders.

“This legislation represents a serious threat to a long list of bedrock environmental protections that for decades have safeguarded 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.

“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.

“We urge lawmakers to reject this and any future attempt to undercut protections that have safeguarded our land and water for more than a generation.”


H.R. 1505 was introduced April 13, 2011, by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, and would apply to an area that includes major metropolitan areas and national parks. Environmental laws this proposed legislation would waive include the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Wilderness Act, Federal Land Policy and Management Act, National Park Service Organic Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act. A similar U.S. Senate measure applying to the U.S.-Mexican border has been attached to an authorization bill for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. DHS has not supported either bill, and a recent General Accounting Office report concluded that federal laws do not impede border protection.

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