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National Security Bill Questions for ME, Acadia Nat’l Park

July 11, 2011

AUGUSTA, Maine - A U.S. House committee is considering a bill that would expand the powers of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by waiving compliance with 36 environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act, within a 100-mile buffer along borders and coastlines. Former Bush administration Interior Department (DOI) deputy director Lynn Scarlett says she supports improving border security, but thinks giving a single federal agency the authority to ignore laws and local agencies is a dangerous move.

Scarlett warns of possible damage to iconic places like Acadia National Park, limits on hunting, fishing, recreation and grazing, and more.

"The danger is also that national security itself will suffer. There's wisdom in these agencies - our law enforcement agencies, state agencies, federal agencies with boots on the ground. They have insights and knowledge that actually help us."

Former Clinton administration DOI Solicitor General John Leshy makes the case that the law is not needed. He points to how it undermines bedrock environmental and land management laws that also can reach onto private property.

"All of these environmental laws being waived are flexible. They can accommodate national security concerns. The land managers sit down with DHS, and they can work these problems out. They are cooperating; they are collaborating."

Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) introduced the bill, claiming federal and local laws and oversight have interfered with border security and that border areas are "overrun with criminal activity."

The bill is H.R. 1505, the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act. A list of laws to be waived and a map of affected areas are available at http://ht.ly/5zhIo.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - ME