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Federal Judge to Hear Border Wall Challenge in D.C.

Media Advisory, December 17, 2018

Contacts: Paulo Lopes, (202) 849-8398, plopes@biologicaldiversity.org
Mary K. Reinhart, (602) 320-7309, mkreinhart@biologicaldiversity.org

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups will present arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s border-wall construction in New Mexico.

U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is presiding over the case. The judge will hear arguments from both sides during the proceeding and could issue her ruling at any time following the hearing. The lawsuit challenges the administration’s use of a long-expired waiver to sweep aside 25 laws that protect clean air, clean water, public lands and endangered wildlife.

“Trump can’t ignore dozens of bedrock environmental laws, no matter how desperate he is to build his destructive border wall,” said Jean Su, a Center attorney. “It’s time to stop Trump’s reckless executive overreach before he inflicts more damage on people and wildlife in the borderlands. We look forward to arguing the merits of this case.”
What: Federal court hearing challenging Trump’s border wall.
Where: U.S. District Courthouse, 333 Constitution Ave. N.W., Courtroom 17 – 6th Floor.
When: Tuesday, Dec. 18, 10:30 a.m.
Media Availability: Attorneys and conservation advocates will be available for interviews outside the courthouse, before and after the hearing.
Background

The Department of Homeland Security exempted itself from dozens of laws to rush border-wall construction in New Mexico. But the waiver authority, granted by Congress more than 10 years ago, no longer applies.

The border-wall project includes 20 miles of new 18 foot-high steel bollard walls, which obstruct the natural migrations of wildlife. Dozens of rare wildlife species, including the aplomado falcon and Mexican gray wolf, make their homes in this region of New Mexico, as do kit foxes, bighorn sheep and ringtail cats. The area is also within historic jaguar habitat.

A 2017 study by the Center identified more than 90 endangered or threatened species that would be threatened by proposed wall construction along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

Beyond jeopardizing wildlife, endangered species and public lands, the U.S.-Mexico border wall is part of a larger strategy of ongoing border militarization that damages human rights, civil liberties, native lands, local businesses and international relations. The border wall impedes the natural migrations of people and wildlife that are essential to healthy diversity.

 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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Rebuilding Stronger: National Wildlife Federation Outlines 12 Recommendations to Protect America from Hurricanes, Worsening Extreme Storms

For Immediate Release, September 27, 2018

Contact: Mike Saccone, National Wildlife Federation, SacconeM@NWF.org, 202-797-6634 

WASHINGTON, DC (October 3, 2018) — In the wake of yet another record-breaking hurricane, the National Wildlife Federation urged Congress to act on a series of urgent, comprehensive steps to prepare America for rising oceans and worsening storms. Rebuilding Stronger: 12 Priority Policies to Better Protect our Nation from Extreme Storms documents lessons learned from Hurricane Florence, which dumped up to 36 inches of rain in parts of North Carolina and about nine trillion gallons of water total on the Carolinas. The storm took more than 40 lives, cut off power for hundreds of thousands, and polluted rivers with spills from coal ash and pig waste lagoons.

“America needs a national commitment to protecting communities from the staggering destruction of extreme storms, like Hurricane Florence. Our communities and wildlife are at-risk because of decades of inaction, but we have highlighted concrete ways Congress can safeguard communities, protect wildlife, promote resilience and adapt to worsening storms, exacerbated by climate change,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “We’re asking Congress not just to fund damage repair for this storm, but to take a series of low-cost or even cost-saving steps to better prepare communities across America for future storms.”

Rebuilding Stronger recommends that Congress:

Prioritize Natural Infrastructure Solutions for Hazard Risk Reduction
Reform the National Flood Insurance Program
Increase Investment in Resilience and “Pre-sponse”  
Reinstate the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard
Ensure Clean Water Act Safeguards Protect Existing Wetlands, Waterways, and Natural Floodplains
Ensure Meaningful Public Input and Environmental Review 
Improve Stormwater Management 
Address Dangerous and Outdated Infrastructure 
Ensure Climate-Resilient Siting and Design of Toxic Pollutant Storage Facilities
Ensure Climate-Resilient Siting, Design, and Management of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.
Ensure Full Funding for Farm Bill Conservation Programs
Advance Climate and Clean Energy Solutions

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House Greenlights $5 Billion for 200 Miles of Destructive Border Wall, Enforcement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 18, 2018
Contact: Paulo Lopes, (202) 849-8398, plopes@biologicaldiversity.org

WASHINGTON, DC (July 18, 2018) – A new House Republican spending bill includes more than $5 billion for border enforcement and new border-wall construction along the U.S.-Mexico border, slicing through some of the most biologically diverse regions in North America.

The House Appropriations Committee bill would fund more than 200 additional miles of border wall on public and private lands without any meaningful environmental review. The Senate companion bill, S. 3109, cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee last month and included $1.6 billion for approximately 65 additional miles of border wall.

“House Republicans just wrote an enormous check for Trump’s plan to rip the borderlands in two,” said Paulo Lopes of the Center for Biological Diversity. “They’re willing to wall off our national parks and wildlife refuges, divide communities, seize private property and destroy endangered wildlife habitat to avoid another Trump tantrum.”

Compared to the Senate bill, the House bill triples the length of new border wall and allows construction anywhere along the border. That puts Big Bend National Park, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, the National Butterfly Center and other cherished places at risk.

New border walls would cut through communities and private land seized from landowners by the government via eminent domain. Endangered and threatened species along the southern border include the jaguar, Mexican gray wolf and ocelot, as well as a host of migratory birds.

Since January 2017 Congress has authorized $2.4 billion in border enforcement, of which $1.7 billion was allocated for walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. These funds pay for approximately 73 miles of new border wall, about 20 miles of it currently under construction in New Mexico. The Trump administration waived dozens of environmental laws to speed border-wall construction, while also embracing harsh measures against immigrants and refugees such as the family separation policy.

“It’s disturbing that House Republicans are pushing Trump’s ridiculous demands while doing nothing to reunite refugee children with their families,” Lopes said. “This construction will destroy some of the most breathtaking places and important wildlife habitat in the borderlands. It’s an enormous, appallingly harmful waste of money.”

The Center filed the first lawsuit against Trump’s border wall in April 2017 and recently appealed a ruling in a separate lawsuit that challenges the Trump administration’s waiver of dozens of environmental laws to replace border walls near San Diego. The Center also sued the Trump administration to challenge its waiver ignoring 25 laws to speed construction of the border wall in New Mexico. The administration is expected to ignore these same laws ― which include the Endangered Species Act, Safe Drinking Water Act and National Historic Preservation Act ― to rush border-wall construction.

Beyond jeopardizing wildlife, endangered species and public lands, the U.S.-Mexico border wall is part of a larger strategy of ongoing border militarization that damages human rights, civil liberties, native lands, local businesses and international relations. The border wall impedes the natural migrations of people and wildlife that are essential to healthy diversity.

 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
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House votes to cut oversight of nation’s top toxic polluter

For Immediate Release
 
Contact: Alan Septoff, (202) 887-1872×105, aseptoff@earthworksaction.org

Washington, D.C. (May 23, 2018) — Today, the House of Representatives voted 229 to 183 to support corporate mining interests over public interests. Rep. Amodei’s (R-NV) amendment to the defense bill funding our troops masquerades as critical minerals policy, but instead threatens our waters and disempowers our communities.

Truly critical are clean water, air and public health. Our bedrock environmental laws also allow communities to have a say in projects that impact them. Limiting input from mining-affected communities would take us in the wrong direction. We need to change U.S. mining policy, but not by loosening oversight, nor by cutting the public out of our government’s decisions. We need accountability. Communities across the country live with pollution from mining accidents. And taxpayers — not the polluters — too often pay for cleanup. Comprehensive reform of the outdated 1872 General Mining Law is the solution to this problem, not giving the mining industry yet another special favor.”

Background

Masquerading as a bill about “strategic and critical minerals,” this amendment strips key water, health and community protections against the nation’s largest toxic polluter, the hardrock mining industry.

The amendment, based on Rep. Amodei’s HR 520, defines nearly anything dug from the ground as a “critical” mineral including common minerals like sand and gravel. For more than 40 years, NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) reviews have provided regulatory certainty and a transparent, fair process for permit seekers and communities to engage their government in mining permitting decisions. Representative Amodei’s amendment would do away with this well-established process.

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Critical minerals list is another Trump attempt to silence public & gut mining oversight

For Immediate Release
 
Contact: Alan Septoff, aseptoff@earthworks.org, 202-887-1872 x105

Washington, D.C. (May 18, 2018) — In today’s Federal Register, the Interior Department published a final list of “critical minerals” in response to President Trump’s December 20, 2017 executive order, “A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals”.

Presidents Trump’s order followed multiple failed attempts by Congress, most recently introduced by Rep. Amodei (R-NV), to gut the mine permitting process for so-called ‘critical minerals’. Now that the USGS has created this list, the executive order gives the Interior & Commerce Departments (and other agencies) 180 days to provide policy strategies to the President, including “recommendations to streamline permitting and review processes related to developing leases; enhancing access to critical mineral resources; and increasing discovery, production, and domestic refining of critical minerals.”

Statement of Earthworks’ Senior Policy Counsel Aaron Mintzes:

“Which minerals make the list misses the point. The mining lobby has misdirected this debate away from our genuine mineral needs toward their decade long attempt to eviscerate community and environmental oversight of the nation’s largest toxic polluter.

What’s ‘critical’ is protecting our clean air and water. The real problem comes when the Interior Department decides what to do with this list. Our worry is criticality designations will serve as a conduit for removing public input in our government’s mining decisions.”

For More Information

Final List of Critical Minerals 2018, Federal Register Notice on 5/18/2018
Joint environmental & community comments re draft list of critical minerals
A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliables Supplies of Critical Minerals, Executive Order on 12/26/2017
Earthworks statement on release of Trump 2017 critical minerals executive order
Earthworks factsheet on HR520, the National Strategic & Critical Minerals Production Act

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Congress to Fund 33 Miles of Environmentally Destructive Border Wall

For Immediate Release, March 22, 2018

Contact: Paulo Lopes, (202) 849-8401 x 105, plopes@biologicaldiversity.org

WASHINGTON (March 23, 2017)— The spending plan introduced in Congress Wednesday includes $641 million for border wall construction in the Rio Grande Valley and $1.6 billion for border enforcement. While the proposed budget prohibits funding new border wall designs, such as Trump’s prototypes, it authorizes construction of approximately 33 additional miles of border walls on public and private lands in the coming months, without any meaningful environmental review.

“It’s heartening to see Congress reject the worst symbol of Trump’s bigotry and racism by prohibiting a concrete wall along the border,” said Paulo Lopes, a public lands policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But jaguars and other wildlife can’t get over a wall, no matter what it’s made of. Congress should not sanction the building of border walls and fences on public lands or anywhere else.”

The first planned sections of the Trump border wall would tear through public lands, ranchlands, national historic sites and the National Butterfly Center in the Rio Grande Valley. Congress only spared the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge from these destructive construction activities.

“Our environment continues to pay a staggering cost for the border wall and the infrastructure that comes with it,” Lopes said. “Now that Congress has given Trump this down-payment, he’ll only keep demanding more.”

A recent study by the Center identified more than 90 endangered or threatened species that would be threatened by wall construction along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

The Center filed the first lawsuit against Trump’s border wall, and will appeal a recent ruling in a separate lawsuit that challenges the Trump administration’s waiver of dozens of environmental laws to replace border walls near San Diego. The Trump administration is expected to set aside these same laws to speed construction of border barriers in Texas.

Beyond jeopardizing wildlife, endangered species and public lands, the U.S.-Mexico border wall is part of a larger strategy of ongoing border militarization that damages human rights, civil liberties, native lands, local businesses and international relations. The border wall impedes the natural migrations of people and wildlife that are essential to healthy diversity.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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Senate Democrats’ Jobs & Infrastructure Plan For America’s Workers Provides Real Investments, Protects Communities and Our Health

WASHINGTON, DC (March 07, 2018) – In response to a new infrastructure proposal introduced by Democrats on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Raul Garcia, Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel, issued the following statement:
 
“Finally, a plan that recognizes what the American people have known all along – that we can have real infrastructure investment without gutting environmental safeguards that protect the air we breathe, water we drink, and communities we call home. This plan looks at our national infrastructure and our environment as something worth investing into while the President’s plan simply wants to sell them off to wealthy corporations.
 
Unlike President Trump’s scam infrastructure plan, the Democrats’ plan is both practical and actionable. It protects the environment and our health, it is inclusive to local communities and it provides real investment in building safe, clean and resilient infrastructure. While the President’s plan guts health and safety protections, it is all smoke and mirrors when it comes to actual investment. The Jobs and Infrastructure Plan for America’s Workers is the real thing.”
 

 

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28 Groups Unite Against Trump Plan

WASHINGTON, DC (February 12, 2018) – Today, President Trump introduced a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure plan that would exempt thousands of infrastructure projects from or otherwise weaken critical environmental laws including the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Clean Air Act, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and more than a dozen other protections.

The 28 organizations named below issued the following statement in response:  

“President Trump’s proposal is an unprecedented giveaway to the wealthy and powerful that would allow his administration and its special interest allies to unilaterally sidestep bedrock conservation, public health, and worker safety laws that keep our families and communities out of harm’s way.

“Across the country, Americans remain overwhelmingly opposed to any plan that would sidestep critical environmental and conservation laws like the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and National Environmental Policy Act. They know we don’t need to hand over our communities to special interests. They know we don’t need to sacrifice our clean air, clean water, wildlife, and iconic lands and waters.

“President Trump’s dangerous proposal would hand out massive subsidies for wealthy developers to build roads and bridges without any regard to the impacts of hurricanes, fires, or rising seas. Taxpayers have repeatedly built and rebuilt many of the buildings and roads destroyed by disasters like Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma. To continue rebuilding over and over again without taking common-sense, proactive measures to address climate change isn’t just short-sighted – it’s expensive and dangerous.

“America badly needs an infrastructure upgrade. Horrifying events like the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which exposed over 100,000 Americans to high levels of lead in their drinking water, are proof enough of that. But President Trump’s proposal does nothing to address real issues like Flint. Instead, by rubberstamping permits for corporations to build oil pipelines, dams, and toxic waste dumps, gutting environmental and labor laws, and severely limiting the public’s ability to hold government accountable will only make our communities – and our nation – a more dangerous place.”

Here is the alphabetical list of the 27 signers of the joint statement:

32BJ SEIU, American Rivers, Animal Welfare Institute, Alaska Wilderness League, Bold Alliance, Brooklyn Movement Center, Care2, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Community Change Action, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Green Latinos, Hip Hop Caucus, Hispanic Federation, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Patriot Not Partisan, Progressive Congress Action Fund, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Save EPA, Sierra Club, State Innovation Exchange, Western Watersheds Project, The Wilderness Society

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STATEMENT: Sierra Club Disappointed in Decision Favoring Trump Border Wall

San Diego, CA (February 27, 2018) – Today, Judge Gonzalo Curiel ruled on the side of the Trump administration in their effort to waive environmental laws to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall in California. The decision will expedite border wall construction in delicate habitat and on public lands.  

In response, Sierra Club Managing Attorney Gloria Smith released the following statement:
“The effects of these waivers and the destruction of a border wall will be long-lasting and detrimental for border communities.
“Waiving these bedrock and bipartisan laws has resulted in flooding in places like Nogales where people lost their lives. The waivers have driven destruction in Native American burial sites. They have killed thousands of species and fragmented habitat. Most concerningly, there is zero accountability or consequence for these outcomes.
“The biggest problem with waiving laws is not judicial or philosophical, it is concrete. The laws that are swept aside are not merely red tape. They are critical protections that were put in place for a reason– to protect people, their communities, and the environment that we depend upon.”

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Contact: 
Courtney Bourgoin
(248) 214 6682
courtney.bourgoin@sierraclub.org

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Trump’s Infrastructure Scam Would Gut Environmental Protections, Sell Off Public Lands, Fail to Fix America’s Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, DC (January 29, 2017) – As reported by the Washington Post, the White House has drafted a proposal to gut environmental protections in an effort to make it easier for corporations to build dangerous pipelines and other environmentally destructive projects, forming the cornerstone of what the White House is calling an infrastructure plan. In addition:

Earlier leaked plans indicate that the Trump administration is seeking to sell public lands off to the fossil fuel industry and other special interests in order to finance its limited spending program.
Taken together, Trump’s proposed federal budget and this plan would actually cut existing funds and kill existing infrastructure jobs — $1.69 in cuts for every $1 in proposed spending.
The plan would be a huge handout to Wall Street banks, whose privatization of roads, bridges, water systems and other public assets will require charging Americans big tolls and fees.
The plan would give the Secretary of the Interior the ability to unilaterally authorize the construction of pipelines in our National Parks and public lands, rather than Congress.

In Response, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune released the following statement:

“This is not a serious proposal to make the investments America’s infrastructure needs, this is a scam designed to gut clean air, water, and wildlife protections, transform public highways and bridges into privately owned toll roads, and sell off America’s public lands. “We need a plan to create good paying, family-sustaining jobs nationwide by making America a clean energy superpower and investing in public transportation, not a scam to enrich Wall Street. At its core, this proposal is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to give another massive handout to polluters at the expense of our air, water, and health.

“What’s essential is addressing the trillion-dollar elephant in the room: the fact that state and local governments remain starved of badly needed funding, effectively stalling projects before they even get off the ground. Instead, the Trump administration is attempting to exploit the situation to gut bedrock environmental laws including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many more. Trump and his allies already decided what to do with the money that could fund this project when they handed it to the wealthiest people and corporations in the country.

“Americans know that improving our infrastructure doesn’t have to come at the cost of clean air and clean water. Without bedrock environmental safeguards like the National Environmental Policy Act, the federal government could rubber stamp permits for corporations to build dangerous pipelines and toxic waste dumps.

“When the administration and its Republican allies in Congress use terms like ‘streamlining’ and ‘permitting reform,’ what they are really saying is that they want to eliminate clean air and water safeguards and cut public participation when important decisions are made. We can’t let that happen.”
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Contact:
Adam Beitman
202-670-5585
adam.beitman@sierraclub.org

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