Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today hailed the Army Corps of Engineers suspension of a permit for the controversial Villages at Vigneto property development proposal in Southern Arizona, where former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was reportedly involved in pressuring federal officials to advance the project despite environmental concerns. Grijalva asked the Trump administration for documents to clarify the issue in July 2019 after a whistleblower came forward alleging improper interference from Bernhardt’s office.
The project’s developer, Mike Ingram, was closely connected to the Trump administration.
Formally, the Army Corps has suspended what is known as a dredge-and-fill permit, which is issued under the Clean Water Act. The suspension means no material can be “discharged” into any legally identified “water of the United States,” which makes the project functionally impossible to develop further.
“The Trump administration told its donors that laws were irrelevant, business could do what it wanted, and friends in high places could make anything happen,” Grijalva said today. “We see today that the rule of law still applies in this country, and I hope to see more of this going forward. We can’t let environmental corner-cutting become the easy get-rich-quick scheme the Trump administration was selling.”
Among other environmental considerations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found the Vigneto project was “reasonably certain” to affect endangered species.
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