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A bipartisan group of Texas legislators are calling upon the U.S. Secretary of State to help resolve delays affecting several Texas communities that are seeking White House presidential permits for cross-border bridges.
Republican lawmakers consisting of U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn as well as U.S. Reps. Monica De La Cruz and Tony Gonzalez joined with their Democratic counterparts in U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez and Henry Cuellar to sign a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday.
In the letter, the legislators said that the bridges will expand trade with Mexico, thus creating more jobs and expanding commerce in the Texas border region.
According to the letter which was shared with The Monitor, three project sponsors submitted applications for proposed bridges in Cameron County and Webb County during the early part of President Joe Biden’s administration. A fourth project is anticipated to be filed soon in Maverick County as well.
“In August 2022 — well beyond the 60-day requirement for the State Department to make a recommendation to the president — applicants received a letter from the State Department demanding full and final environmental assessment reviews before the State Department would make its recommendation to the president for his consideration,” the letter read.
“A completed environmental assessment is unnecessary and contradicts past precedent. We urge you to ask the White House to instead restore the past practice of issuing presidential permits contingent on an environmental assessment being successfully completed,” the letter continued.
Environmental assessments are conducted in accordance with requirements set by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The letter goes on to say that the State Department must provide its recommendation to the president, “whether granting a permit for an international crossing is in the foreign policy interest of the United States.”
The legislators claim that permits for Texas-Mexico bridge projects have been “needlessly” delayed due to the lengthy environmental assessment.
They are calling for the “bureaucratic hurdle” to be eliminated “because it is both unnecessary and ignores the positive cultural and economic impacts that make these projects in our foreign policy interest.”
The legislators claim that since the projects are nearby or adjacent to existing border crossings, it negates the need for a “laborious environmental study.”
They also referred to presidential permits issued during President Donald Trump’s administration for bridges in Pharr and Laredo without requiring full and final NEPA assessments.
“We strongly urge you to ask the White House to remove the unnecessary requirement that international bridge project sponsors complete a lengthy environmental assessment before the State Department will make its recommendation to the president about a permit request,” the letter read. “Furthermore, we ask that, within 60 days of receipt of this letter, the State Department recommend to the president that he approve the permits for these projects.”