UPDATE, 10/24: Tucson Citizen editorial
TUCSON -- My Congressman, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ7), Chair of the US House subcommittee on Parks, Forests and Public Lands, released the statement below regarding Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff’s decision today to ignore a federal court order and pursue a waiver of all laws, including environmental protections, in the BLM San Pedro River Riparian National Conservation Area and 5.4 miles of other borderlands.
Public-interest laws waived by Chertoff: NEPA, Endangered Species Act, Federal Water Pollution Control Act (known as Clean Water Act), National Historic Preservation Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Clean Air Act, Archaeological Resources Protection Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Noise Control Act, Solid Waste Disposal Act as amended by Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (Superfund), Federal Land Policy and Management Act, Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act, Antiquities Act, Historic Sites, Buildings and Antiquities Act, Arizona Idaho Conservation Act, Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, Farmland Protection Policy Act, and Administrative Procedures Act.
Congressman Grijalva says:
"The Secretary’s decision to invoke a waiver for fence construction in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area is short sighted and, combined with other wall construction along the border, will devastate the region and the river. It is an insult to those of us who live on the border. "
"The Secretary’s responsibility is to protect the homeland, not selectively destroy our environment for political gain."
"The REAL ID Act, which allows the Secretary of Homeland Security, a political appointee, to waive all laws for fence and road construction along the border, was never intended to be used along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. Instead, the waiver was intended only for use on a small section of fencing in San Diego."
“This is the second time the Secretary has utilized the waiver in Arizona, clearly because he is aware that the environmental analysis created to justify the San Pedro wall project was weak and unsupportable under current law."
"The waiver is unnecessary; unfortunately the Secretary feels that he cannot work towards a measure that could include protecting the river as we secure the border. Nor does he believe in his fundamental responsibility to consult with local communities on the best approach to border protection for our specific region."
"Once again this Secretary and this Administration has given into fear-mongering and shown that they cannot be stewards of the land, let alone promoters of security. Just as in many other contexts, this Administration believes that it is above the laws that protect the environment, health and human safety of border communities. The unfortunate losers in this are the American people."
"Instead of issuing blanket waivers of all laws, the Secretary should begin a full scale, regional, environmental impact statement that analyzes in depth the impacts of fence and wall construction in Arizona, just as they are doing in Texas. The local community deserves the respect to have an open and transparent process with full environmental analysis where local voices who understand the implication of border polices are included in the dialogue. Our local communities are open to working on behalf of security - not a selective security, but rather one that includes habitat, national, border, and regional security."
"It is easy for political appointees in Washington, D.C. to implement a policy that affects communities and the environment several thousand miles away, ignoring the residents, culture, and landscape. But, this wall does not protect our communities; it separates our history, culture, wildlife and natural habitats."
"I have introduced legislation that among other things would repeal the REAL ID waiver, taking back the power from this administration to overturn established laws that protect the environment and the public’s right to know what federal officials are doing. I plan to continue to push for consideration of my legislation in order to rein in these continued abuses of power."
Right on, Raul! Some strong words of leadership on a sad day for the San Pedro River and fair, open government.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ8), who represents the San Pedro River area in Cochise County, says, "I am extremely disappointed in Secretary Chertoff’s decision. The Department of Homeland Security must listen to the environmentalists and border residents of Southern Arizona before resuming fence construction. My goal is to balance strong border security and legitimate environmental concerns."
She also recently was quoted in the media as saying she supports REAL ID administrative authority to suspend all laws to allow building of border walls.
I hope she will change that risky position.
Rep. Giffords has yet to support Rep. Grijalva's important bill to reign in DHS' administrative abuses of power. Perhaps now she'll reconsider as DHS suspends all law to speed a border wall across a fragile river and wildlife corridor in her district, ignoring her reasonable call for an Environmental Impact Statement.
She should join with Grijalva on his bill. People elected Giffords to stand up to Bush's recklessness. She campaigned in favor of protecting the San Pedro River, and against border walls in wild areas. Plus, the 'wall the border' extremists are a small minority that will never support her.
It's just not right to try to wall the last free desert river in the southwest and BLM National Conservation Area, and US law would likely show it to be illegal, which is why the lawless Bush administration simply had to exempt the federal government from the law. To suspend the law is strongly un-American. It's just not ethical.
No word yet from Senators Kyl or McCain on this heavy-handed move by the federal government to harm the environment in Arizona. As Bush buddies, it is safe to assume they support the lawless river harming wall. Our Senators are Big Gov't men.
Also no word yet from Gov. Napolitano, who should be outraged.
The Bush administration's move today to suspend US law to speed more unchecked border militarization is a disgrace to America, Mexico, the environment, and the rule of law.
New 'Berlin Walls' on the border will not work to stop illegal immigration, and the web-of-life on the San Pedro River and other rivers and landscapes in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas will be badly damaged.
Power-hungry Chertoff should be forced to resign, and the REAL ID waiver should be repealed by Congress.
Meanwhile, it's likely that mega-contractor Phoenix-based Granite Construction will be back out in the morning on its big money contract to wreck the San Pedro River.
Don't be surprised if big floods this winter or in monsoon 08 knock out all Chertoff's 'small man' border walls on the San Pedro River, which the feds will again probably try to foolishly rebuild.