Trump admin waives environmental laws to allow border wall construction

SAN DIEGO — The Trump administration announced Tuesday it will waive environmental and other laws and regulations that would impede the first phase of construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border.

The Department of Homeland Security decision clears an important hurdle to construction of the wall, and signals an approach the administration could take in the future when it seeks to build additional sections of wall or fence.

The waiver announced Tuesday applies to “a variety of environmental, natural resource, and land management laws” in the San Diego sector, one of the most-crossed regions of the border and the site where border wall prototypes are scheduled to be constructed later this year.

The 15-mile stretch identified in the waiver also includes 14 miles of replacement secondary fencing, for which Customs and Border Protection has requested funding from Congress.

Despite the waiver, construction will not begin for at least several more months because federal officials are currently reviewing a protest by a company that competed for, but was not awarded, a building contract. That process delays any construction on the prototypes, which have been authorized by congressional appropriators, until November at the earliest.

The waiver applies to 37 laws and regulations, most of them environmental in nature, a Homeland Security official told CNN. The department said it would publish the full waiver “in the coming days.”

DHS said in a statement it “remains committed to environmental stewardship with respect to these projects.”

The waiver comes just a day before the San Diego City Council’s Budget Committee will consider a proposed resolution in opposition to the border wall.

That resolution, proposed by Councilwoman Georgette Gomez, calls the border area “among the most unique, diverse and beautiful regions in the world,” and terms the wall plans “offensive and damaging symbols of fear and division that will increase tensions with Mexico.” The document also says the wall would damage the economy and disrupt joint tourism promotions between San Diego and Tijuana.

Gomez’s proposal calls for opposition to Trump’s executive order on the border wall and for the council to express its intent to identify companies involved with designing, building, or financing the structure, and its intent to divest from those companies.

The state Senate is considering a similar bill that beginning next year would bar state agencies from awarding or renewing contracts with any companies involved in building the wall.