Border fence construction may bypass environmental laws

It’s hard to think of a worse idea than building a 700-mile border fence between the U.S. and Mexico, but here’s a shot: building a border fence without abiding by the Endangered Species Act, Federal Water Pollution Control Act, or National Environmental Policy Act. Yet on Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff declared that it would be so. Greens, outraged on behalf of some 47 endangered species along the border — not to mention those who like clean water — hope the new Democratic Congress might stop, or at least mitigate, the madness. When the fence was approved before Election Day last year, many Dems voted yea — but did not fund it. “We need to see whether that was a case of political pandering or whether they do believe in this cause,” says environmental attorney Cory Briggs. One factor that might play in: While proponents have trumpeted a $2.2 billion price tag for the fence, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service suggests the cost may hit $49 billion or more.