House set to waive environmental laws for security agency along border

It also gives the border agency “immediate access” to Interior and Agriculture department lands for activities including road and fence construction, use of patrol vehicles and deployment of temporary “tactical infrastructure.”

The bill — which would sunset after five years — is rolled into a larger package of land-use bills headed for the House floor next week.

The Bishop measure “Enhances border security by ensuring that Border Patrol has access to federal lands along the border and is not prohibited from doing its job due to bureaucratic red tape,” according to an announcement of the land-use package Wednesday from House Natural Resources Committee Republicans.

Bishop, when introducing the bill last year, said it takes steps to “address the unacceptable restrictions that prevent Border Security experts from doing their jobs.”

But environmentalists have been battling the plan. Jane Danowitz of the Pew Environment Group said last year that waiving “bedrock” environmental and land-management laws has little to do with enhancing security.

“Instead, the proposed legislation would give unprecedented authority to a single federal agency to destroy wildlife habitat and wetlands, impair downstream water quality and restrict activities such as hunting, fishing and grazing,” said Danowitz, the group’s director of U.S. public lands, last year as the Natural Resources Committee was considering the measure.

Our Floor Action blog has more coverage here of the wider package of bills coming to the floor next week.