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Johnson seeks legislation to help approve wall

Dusty Johnson speaks at a Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce event. (Daily Republic file photo)

U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson said Wednesday that he's introducing legislation to waive federally required environmental reviews required by the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act in order to expedite building a border wall with Mexico.

The legislation, Johnson said during a conference call with media members, would reinforce U.S. Customs and Border Protection's abilities to secure the border. The legislation is called the Furthering American Security by Tempering Environmental Regulations, or FASTER, Act. He said the legislation would allow border security approval to move quicker, without being caught up in legal or court actions.

"I believe strongly in securing the southern border and doing it in the right way," he said. "I want to eliminate the barriers, and making it possible for us to get this done. ... We know that regulations can land projects in the courts for years. It would be nice to avoid that with a physical barrier at the southern border."

Johnson said that he wants to see the wall be built in a way that's done cost effectively, and he said building it quickly is part of that. He was asked about the consistency of supporting this legislation while opposing President Donald Trump's emergency declaration for building a border wall.

"I think it's entirely consistent," Johnson said. "My concern about the declaration wasn't a reflection that we didn't need border security. I just didn't think a unilateral declaration was the right way to go about getting this approved. To me, this is the right way to do that and working through the branches of government."

Johnson said concerns about protecting the environment can be balanced with national security interests. In other news, Johnson discussed the following:

• The Mitchell native said he was pleased with the proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency to allow for the year-round sale of E15, or a 15 percent ethanol fuel blend. He said it supports consumer choices that drivers are looking for. "To me, this is freedom," he said. "Environmentally, it's better than E10. I don't think that can be argued."

• Johnson also said President Trump's budget proposal that calls for cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, and cuts to crop insurance, would be "a non-starter." He said that while he likes the idea of moving toward a balanced budget and addressing the country's "unacceptable" national debt, he said that the president's budget is "not something that Congress has given a great deal of deference to."

• The congressman said he hopes that the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, trade agreement can get moving to address "too much uncertainty in the ag arena."