- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to U.S. Department of Homeland Security environmental waivers, leaving intact a ruling that allows fast-tracked construction of U.S.-Mexico border wall projects in San Diego County, California. The three projects in question involved border wall prototypes and 18 total miles of fence replacement. The Supreme Court issued its denial with no opinion.
- The DHS waivers, issued in August 2017 and September 2017 and upheld by California U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, set aside requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Coastal Zone Management Act and about 30 other such federal and state environmental and preservation regulations. Curiel rejected several claims as part of his decision, including that issuance of the waivers was beyond DHS authority, that the DHS’ waiver authority had expired before the agency issued the waivers and that the DHS' actions violated the constitution.
- The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the State of California and the Center for Biological Diversity, among others, were plaintiffs in the lawsuit. In his order denying the motion, Judge Curiel made a point of saying that he did not consider the political debate that surrounded the issue of border wall construction in making his decision.
The DHS has since issued the same type of waivers for segments of border wall construction in Texas as well. One of those projects recently started construction — automated border wall gates in Cameron County, Texas. The contract with San Antonio, Texas-based construction company Gideon Contracting is worth up to $5.7 million — $3.7 million for seven gates and a $1.9 million option for four more. Customs and Border Protection plans to install a total of 35 gates to fill gaps in an existing pedestrian wall.
The DHS has consistently maintained that, despite its waivers of environmental regulations, it is committed to making minimal impact to the environment and wildlife, as well as cultural and historical elements, near border wall projects.
The agency has ramped up construction in the last month or so, awarding more than $630 million of contracts in November alone. These projects include a total of $312 million to Galveston, Texas-based SLSCO Ltd. for about eight miles of levee wall construction ($167 million), as well as another six-mile stretch ($145 million) in Texas and a $324 million contract to Bozeman, Montana-based contractor Barnard Construction Co. for 32 miles of pedestrian replacement wall in Arizona.