The Border Wall Makes Political Comeback

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House Republicans and Donald Trump’s team are coalescing around a multi-billion dollar plan to make good on the president-elect’s campaign vows to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, according to top Republican lawmakers and aides.

Republican leaders, in tandem with Trump’s transition staff, are considering using a 2006 law signed by former President George W. Bush that authorized the construction of 700 miles-plus of “physical barrier” on the southern border. The law was never fully implemented and did not include a sunset provision, allowing Trump to pick up where Bush left off — with the help of new money from Congress.

Yet the plan could potentially provoke a showdown with Democrats over government funding. Republicans are considering whether to tuck the border wall funding into a must-pass spending bill that must be enacted by the end of April. GOP lawmakers and aides believe they could win a public relations war over the matter by daring Democrats — particularly vulnerable red-state senators up for reelection next year — to shutter the government over one of Trump’s most popular campaign pledges.

Bolstering their cause is a long list of Senate Democrats who voted for the border measure a decade ago, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) — making it harder for Democrats to say no now, Republicans believe.

“There’s already in existing law the authorization for hundreds of miles of build out on the southern border … so, one important step in the right direction will be funding the existing law and beginning the building out of hundreds of miles of wall, or fence, on the southern border,” said House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Luke Messer (Ind.).

Full Story at Politico

Political Winds Make Deportation Plans and Border Wall Improbable

by Laura Litvan

Donald Trump’s pledges to deport undocumented immigrants and build a U.S.-Mexico border wall helped fuel Republicans’ surprising election victories, but they now face growing challenges from fellow party members.

Three Republican senators are working with Democrats to shield about 750,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation if Trump cancels a 2012 order from President Barack Obama that let them stay in the U.S.

Lawmakers want to “ensure that children who were brought here by their parents, through no fault of their own, are able to stay and finish their education and continue to contribute to society,” said Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are joining him on a measure drafted by the No. 2 Democratic leader, Dick Durbin of Illinois, that will be introduced after the new Congress convenes Jan. 3.

Trump’s campaign was largely powered by his get-tough stance on immigration. A Pew Research Center poll in August found that 79 percent of Trump voters want a border wall, compared with 38 percent of all registered voters.

But among lawmakers in Congress, the desire to build a wall along the entire 1,933-mile border with Mexico has evaporated. Republicans in both chambers instead support more fencing, border patrol agents, drones and other resources to curb illegal entry. House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said he’ll offer a bill with some of those steps in January.

Full Story at Bloomberg News

Mexico Wants More Texas Natural Gas

by Jennifer Hiller

The export of U.S. natural gas is climbing — and much of it is coming from Texas shale fields and bound for power plants in Mexico.

As Mexico continues to overhaul and modernize its energy sector, its appetite for U.S. natural gas is swelling. Daily pipeline exports to Mexico rose 25 percent in August, compared with the year before, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. August exports were up 85 percent from the average amount of natural gas that had been exported daily between 2011 and 2015.

It’s a trend that shows no signs of slowing, even as Mexico moves to increase its own oil and gas production, according to Antonio Garza Jr., a former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico under President George W. Bush and a former chairman of the state’s oil and gas regulator, the Texas Railroad Commission.

“The amount of natural gas flowing from shale fields in the United States to Mexico has been rapidly increasingly over the last few years — doubling from mid-2014 through today and expected to double yet again in the coming years,” Garza said.

More than half of U.S. natural gas exports have gone to Mexico since April 2015. To move the gas, pipeline capacity from the U.S. to Mexico is on the rise, too. It’s currently at 7.3 billion cubic feet per day, mostly headed from Texas to the northeast and central parts of Mexico.

Four new U.S.-to-Mexico pipelines are expected to come on line next year, with two more expected to start moving gas in 2018. In the next three years, that U.S.-to-Mexico export capacity is projected to double, according to recent reports from the EIA.

Presidio to Get a Paint Job

by Cameron Dodd – Presidio International

The Presidio Municipal Development District is ironing out the details of a new renovation assistance program that would reimburse business owners for exterior painting costs.

The PMDD approved at their November meeting the launch of a pilot renovation assistance program aimed to assist in beautifying downtown Presidio. Under the program, the PMDD will make five reimbursements up to $1,000 available on a first come, first serve basis in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Businesses that operate at least 40 hours each week and rental property owners are eligible. Business owners must submit plans for their repainting project to the PMDD board for approval and must plan on buying paint from local Presidio vendors.

“We’re excited about the prospect of painting Presidio,” PMDD Executive Director Brad Newton told the Presidio International. “We want our businesses to be more attractive to local shoppers and more inviting for tourists.”

Although the program does not have any restrictions on which colors business owners use, the PMDD board is encouraging applicants to consider colors that fit with an “American southwest” theme, such as the sandy brown of the Big Bend Telephone office or Saint Francis Plaza.

Business owners whose projects are approved in advance can submit their paint receipts to the PMDD for reimbursement up to $1,000.

The pilot renovation program is the first initiative of the PMDD’s business retention program, spearheaded by PMDD Board President Rogelio Zubia. PMDD has several projects focused on attracting new businesses to Presidio. The business retention program was launched earlier this year with the goal of assisting existing local businesses.

Full Story at Big Bend Sentinel

Border Wall Would be a Texas Tragedy

Dallas News Editorial

There are few more breathtakingly beautiful places in Texas than Big Bend National Park.

Adventurers can take in the rolling mountains on horseback. Families can hike the Santa Elena Canyon, then dip their toes in the river below. You can raft or canoe the Rio Grande. You might even see a black bear.

Spanning 800,000 acres, it’s a natural playground of deserts and wildlife for lovers of the great outdoors.

Now imagine a big wall running through this glorious park.

That would be shameful.

But that’s exactly what’s on the table if President-elect Donald Trump follows through his campaign promise to build a wall along the 2,000-mile Mexican border. Big Bend shares 118 miles of border with Mexico.

As one resident wrote in a letter to the editor: Building a wall through Big Bend would be like “a blanket thrown over the Statue of Liberty.”

We recognize concerns about illegal immigration by wall advocates. But there clearly are ways to address those without building a wall.

Think technology like ground sensors, cameras; and more patrol agents.

Complete Editorial at DMN

Congress Promoting New Cross Border Trade Bill

by Luis Montoya – Rio Grande Guardian

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar will be in Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley on Thursday, Dec. 15, to promote the passage of the Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act.

The legislation, which the two legislators authored, promotes public-private partnerships to boost staffing and make infrastructure improvements at U.S. ports of entry – without adding to the national deficit.

The legislation has been supported by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; the Border Trade Alliance; the Texas Border Coalition; the Rio Grande Valley Partnership; Cameron County; the City of Eagle Pass; the City of Mission; the City of McAllen; the City of Harlingen; the City of Pharr; the Anzalduas International Bridge; the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge; the Pharr International Bridge; the Starr-Camargo International Bridge Company.

The Laredo event takes place at the World Trade Bridge, one of the busiest international bridges in the United States.

“On Thursday, we will receive U.S. Senator John Cornyn in this border city. We will talk about a bill that we both presented, he got it approved at Senate level and I did it on my side. It is a bill that’s going to help us in the border, at the ports-of-entry,” Cuellar, a Laredo native, told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“If there’s more business going on, it will definitely help us to move more trade. So, when President-Elect Donald Trump mentions a rejection of trade, a Republican (Cornyn) and a Democrat at the border (Cuellar) say we are going to improve our ports-of-entry and exit of the United States.”

Border Wall Seen as Threat to Big Bend Beauty, Wildlife

Associated Press

BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, Texas — Opponents of a vast border wall championed by President-elect Donald Trump say it will impair tourism and conservation efforts at Big Bend National Park and beyond, according to a newspaper report.

They contend Big Bend was first envisioned in the 1930s as Big Bend International Peace Park, extending from Texas into Mexico, and that a wall will ruin that original vision.

But supporters of the wall argue border security is paramount and that concerns it would threaten wildlife and undermine the park’s beauty are secondary, The Dallas Morning News reports (http://bit.ly/2fPcHyq ).

“The idea of putting a wall up from Brownsville to San Diego can’t be discounted,” said Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing Border Patrol agents.

The union supported candidate Trump and now it’s advising him about border security issues.

“We can look at each sector of the border and decide. Are we able to control an area without a fence? If the answer is yes, then we can look at that,” Moran told the newspaper. “Security really has to come first.”

But Rick LoBello and others counter that enhanced security measures can be introduced without constructing a border barrier, and this approach would allow for promising conservation gains to continue, such as the remigration of black bears into Texas from Mexico.

“A big wall in Big Bend would basically destroy the wilderness quality Big Bend has protected,” said LoBello, a member of the Greater Big Bend Coalition, a nonprofit pushing to create a binational park or protected area.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote to Mexican President Manuel Avila Camacho in 1944, the year the national park was created, to say Big Bend would not be complete until “both sides of the Rio Grande form one great international park.” The current boundaries of the park extend along 118 miles of the border.

Full Story at Albuquerque Journal

Feds Reject Latest Protest Against Trans Pecos Pipeline

by Russell Kooistra and Jasmine C. Hites

On November 1, 2016, FERC rejected arguments raised by numerous intervenors (“Environmental Intervenors”) that FERC had too narrowly defined its jurisdiction over Trans-Pecos Pipeline, LLC’s (“Trans-Pecos”) Presidio Border Crossing Project (the “Project”) and interconnecting intrastate pipeline (the “Trans-Pecos Pipeline”), which resulted in an abbreviated environmental review that failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (“NEPA”). In doing so, FERC found that the Trans-Pecos Pipeline will be an intrastate pipeline receiving natural gas produced solely in Texas, and thus environmental review of the construction and operation of the pipeline is not subject to FERC’s Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) Section 7 jurisdiction.

On May 5, 2016, FERC granted Trans-Pecos a Presidential Permit and authorization under NGA Section 3 to site, construct, and operate the Project to export natural gas to Mexico (the “May 2016 Order”). According to FERC, the Project will consist of 1,093 feet of pipeline extending from Texas to the Mexican border in the middle of the Rio Grande River, where it will interconnect with a new stub pipeline of a Mexican affiliate. On the United States side of the border, Trans-Pecos also plans to construct the Trans-Pecos Pipeline, a 148-mile-long pipeline connecting the Project to natural gas supplies in Pecos County, Texas. As the May 2016 Order noted, the Commission issued an environmental assessment for the Project, which concluded that approval of the Project would not constitute a major federal action.

In response, Environmental Intervenors requested rehearing of the May 2016 Order, arguing that FERC should have found that the Trans-Pecos Pipeline was subject to the Commission’s jurisdiction under NGA Section 7. Specifically, Environmental Intervenors argued that because the Trans-Pecos Pipeline terminates near the Waha Hub – a hub in west Texas with interconnecting interstate pipelines – it will transport natural gas that has been commingled with other gas transported by interstate pipelines located near the hub. As a result, Environmental Intervenors contended that FERC truncated its environmental review of the Project by not including the Trans-Pecos Pipeline. In addition, Environmental Intervenors argued that FERC should consider the Trans-Pecos Pipeline jurisdictional because, according to Environmental Intervenors, the pipeline is likely to provide interstate service at or near the in-service date. As an alternative to finding the Trans-Pecos Pipeline jurisdictional under the NGA, Environmental Intervenors argued that FERC should “federalize” the pipeline for the purposes of NEPA and analyze it together with the Project. Finally, Environmental Intervenors argued that FERC failed to consider Comanche Trail Pipeline, LLC’s San Elizario Crossing Project – a border crossing facility approximately 250 miles from the Project – as a connected action in FERC’s environmental review of the Project.

Full Story at Jordan Sanders Energy Report

Drilling Under Rio Grande Has Begun for Trans Pecos Pipeline

by Cameron Dodd

Contractors working on the 143-mile Trans-Pecos Pipeline started drilling beneath the Rio Grande last week.

Construction of the Presidio Crossing Project, the roughly 1000-feet of pipeline tunneling beneath the Rio Grande about 12 miles northwest of Presidio, commenced after the pipeline was granted approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to drill from the U.S. side of the river.

Contractors drilled a six-inch pilot hole from the United States to Mexico under the river and international boundary. Fiber optic cables were run through the six-inch hole, according to the construction status update TPP filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The pipeline will be buried 69 feet beneath the Rio Grande, according to TPP plans submitted to FERC. Contractors are using a method called horizontal directional drilling, technology developed for drilling oil and natural gas wells. It is the same process that TPP is using to lay pipe beneath parts of highways 90 and 67.

TPP’s contractors drafted a directional drilling contingency plan that detail procedures for reporting and remediating any leaks of drilling fluid into the river itself. An environmental assessment conducted by FERC concluded the drilling would not significantly impact the river or other biological resources in the area.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved Friday, Oct. 28 a request for a variance from the Trans-Pecos Pipeline (TPP). This was the second such variance TPP requested from the federal regulator.

FERC has regulatory jurisdiction over what is called the “Presidio Crossing Project,” the roughly 1,000 feet that the pipeline crosses under the Rio Grande. In the original plan for the Presidio Crossing, the pipeline company proposed to use horizontal directional drilling to burrow the pipeline under the river, beginning from the United States side.

Full Story at Big Bend Sentinel

A Walk Along the Border

By Rose Minutaglio

Wilmer Valderrama is opening up about his personal immigrant experience – and why all Americans should embrace and celebrate their cultural identities, not hide them.

“The most beautiful thing you can be is an immigrant,” Valderrama, 36, says. “A fearless brave individual that embraces their heritage is a special thing.”

The star of a new Johnnie Walker campaign Keep Walking America, Valderrama visited the Texas-Mexico border on October 23, meeting with local immigrants and hometown heroes and encouraging those of cross-culture heritage to “embrace their roots.” Especially at a time when he says there is “a lot of negativity around the conversation of immigration.”

“I’m all about the positivity and making sure we celebrate the goodness of immigration,” the former That ’70s Show star says. “And being proud of an immigrant heritage.”

Valderrama was born in Miami, Florida, but left the U.S. at the age of 3.

“My father is Venezuelan and my mother is Colombian,” he says “There was work in Venezuela, so we left the country and moved back to where my dad is from.”

The actor grew up on a farm riding horses and “chasing chickens” every day with his sister. But his father’s agricultural corn and rice business went bankrupt and his parents moved the family to California when he was a teenager – in pursuit of a better life.

“He wanted to give me and my sister a better future and a shot at an education,” says Valderrama. “So we sold everything we had and came to America.”

He enrolled in acting classes and, at the age of 18, landed the role of Fez on That ’70s Show that would eventually launch his Hollywood career.

“If you’re an American, period, you are an immigrant,” he says. “Retelling my story now, retelling success stories, is a great reminder that the American dream can be achieved.”

Full Story at People