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In the News: Conservation groups file petition seeking Supreme Court review of ruling

A petition filed on behalf of conservation groups argues that the Trump administration’s construction of border walls without public input is unconstitutional, according to a news release.

On Thursday, Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a review of a recent federal court ruling that allowed the administration to waive environmental, health and safety laws to speed up the construction of border walls near San Diego, and other places along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The conservation groups and the state of California filed separate lawsuits last year in U.S. District Court challenging the Trump administration’s use of the long-expired waiver to build replacement walls and prototypes in Otay Mesa,” the release states. “The lawsuits said a 2005 waiver under the REAL ID Act had expired and the new waivers represented an unconstitutional delegation in violation of the separation of powers.”

The Center for Biological Diversity said in its lawsuit that the waiver authority cannot be interpreted to last forever. California argued that it expired in 2008, when Homeland Security satisfied congressional requirements at the time on how much wall to build.

But on Feb. 27, in a 101-page filing, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel rejected arguments by the state of California and advocacy groups that the administration overreached by waiving laws requiring environmental and other reviews before construction could begin — saying the 2005 waiver authority was still valid.

“By waiving dozens of protections like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act to build a border wall, the Trump administration is saying the health and well-being of humans and wildlife does not matter,” Jason Rylander, a senior staff attorney at Defenders of Wildlife, said. “We will not stop fighting to protect wildlife and communities from the devastation this wall would bring.”

Brian Segee, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, called the Trump administration’s plan to build walls along the U.S.-Mexico border, an abuse of power and devastating to the environment.

“These waivers are a blank check for environmental destruction in the borderlands,” Segee said. “Trump can’t wave a wand and ignore bedrock environmental and public-health laws. Hopefully the Supreme Court will take this case so these critical constitutional issues can be addressed.”

Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said construction of a border wall will push several species into extinction.

“Construction of a wall will have devastating effects on wildlife, such as jaguars, Mexican gray wolves and ocelots, who call the border their home,” Wells said. “In order to thrive, animals need the full range of their habitats. A border wall will separate animal families, disturb natural migration routes and disrupt breeding patterns.”

This article was published in The Monitor

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