Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today spoke out against a Republican attempt -- formally known as Title XIV of H.R. 2578 -- to allow Department of Homeland Security personnel to waive three dozen environmental laws within 100 miles of any U.S. border. A video of his remarks at this morning's press conference outside the U.S. Capitol is available at http://t.co/IgIn1l00.
An amendment to the overall bill that Grijalva introduced to eliminate Title XIV was voted down by the Republican House majority.
H.R. 2578 is an omnibus public lands measure Republicans voted to pass a few minutes ago on the House floor. Title XIV was formerly H.R. 1505, a standalone bill introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who chairs the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. Rep. Grijalva is the ranking member of the subcommittee.
The measure gives the Secretary of Homeland Security, through the authority of Customs and Border Protection, the power to claim control of "all land under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture within 100 miles of the international land borders of the United States."Homeland Security officials have repeatedly testified to Congress under oath that environmental laws pose no security threat and that the bill is not necessary. In a 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office, an overwhelming majority of Border Patrol agents "reported that the overall security status of their jurisdiction is not affected by land management laws."
Bishop's effort allows CBP officials to waive, among other laws, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, the Antiquities Act of 1906, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the Wilderness Act. The measure does nothing to protect Tribal sovereignty in the affected areas and has led to widespread concern about protecting the territorial integrity of native land.
"This is theater of the absurd," Grijalva said. "Republicans have wanted to gut these laws for decades, and each excuse seems to get a little flimsier. They're not afraid to invent new reasons to get their way, and when those run out they just use the old ones again. The days of scaring everyone by shouting "national security' are long over, and Republicans would do everyone a favor by recognizing that this is a big waste of time."
A coalition of Congressional lawmakers and groups representing Hispanics, environmentalists, sportsmen, Native American tribes, and others held this morning's press conference outside the U.S. Capitol to express their united objections to Bishop's power grab.
"Opposition to this useless bill is universal and goes way beyond partisan politics," Grijalva said. "Instead of marginalizing border communities, reducing their legal protections and making them less livable, let's strengthen our borders by creating jobs and stopping the free flow of guns from the U.S. to Mexico and back again. Wiping out environmental laws has nothing to do with safety or making peoples' lives better, and I think Rep. Bishop knows that."