Sierra Club Takes Action to Uphold Constitution, Protect Environmentally Sensitive Lands
March 17, 2008
On March 17, 2008 the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their argument that the REAL ID Act, being harmful to the environment and border communities, is unconstitutional. This lpiece of legislation grants Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff unprecedented and sweeping authority to waive any and all laws to expedite the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border; the two conservation groups charge that such unbounded authority to the executive branch is a violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers provisions.
"Laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act are part of America's enduring legal framework, and no agency or public official should be allowed to ignore them," said Carl Pope, executive director of Sierra Club. "Our laws have provided Americans a voice in the decision-making process that affects their lives, their human rights and the protection of wildlife; our government must not exempt itself from obeying those laws."
In their petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, Defenders and The Sierra Club contend that the REAL ID Act’s waiver provision unconstitutionally allows the DHS secretary unilaterally to repeal laws, threatening the system of checks and balances assured in the Constitution.
November 1, 2007
The Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife stepped up their efforts to save crucial environmental protections as well as unique wildlife and lands along the U.S.-Mexico border. On November 1st the two groups filed an amended complaint in U.S. district court which challenges as unconstitutional the Bush administration's power to single-handedly waive any and all United States laws to continue construction of border wall segments in environmentally sensitive areas.
On October 10, U.S. District Court Judge Ellen S. Huvelle issued a temporary restraining order stopping border wall and road construction within the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, saying that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the San Pedro area, hadn't properly analyzed the impacts of the construction on wildlife and other natural resources, and that the agencies had failed to include the public in their decision-making process. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff responded by invoking the REAL ID Act to waive 19 laws in order to resume construction of this particular wall segment.
"The Bush administration should know that we have the ability to protect our nation while at the same time preserving the unique wildlife and treasured lands along the border," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director. "Arbitrarily waiving environmental protections is an extreme path to tread."
Details and Documents:
Environmental Laws Waiver to Build Border Fence Challenged
June 2, 2008 by Melissa McEver, The Monitor
Border Fence: No Reason to Trample Laws Underfoot
April 10, 2008 by El Paso Times Staff, El Paso Times
Power to Build Border Fence is Above US Law
April 8, 2008 by Allen Liptak, The New Yorker Times
Democrats to Challenge Plans to Finish Border Fence
April 7, 2008 by Stephen S. Hsu, The Washington Post
Chertoff waiver authority called unconstitutional
November 1, 2007 by Suzanne Gamboa (AP), Houston Chronicle
Conservation Groups Challenge Chertoff's Waiver Power as Unconstitutional
November 1, 2007, Defenders of Wildlife Press Release, Earthtimes
See other "Promoting Resilient Habitats" cases.