Friday, April 9, 2010

Sierra Club Update: The Great State Park Giveaway!

Posted By on Fri, Apr 9, 2010 at 3:17 PM

Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr sends out the following dispatch. The news is not good for state parks as lawmakers take steps toward even greater dismantling of the profitable parts of the system:

Rogue Director: A Director for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality who actually attempts to enforce laws to protect the air, water, public health and welfare. - Definition at the Arizona Legislature (also a definition used by the Arizona Mining Association and Freeport McMoRan)

April 9, 2010

Hi everyone! The only good news I have to pass along is that the 2010 Arizona Legislative Session is nearing the end. It could happen next week, but I think it is more likely to wrap up the following week. We can then breathe a collective sigh of relief and get to work on trying to stop the plethora of bad referrals. This week, in a sure sign that Governor Brewer is not planning to hold the office for long, she signed SB1200 NOW: game and fish commission; recommendation board (Nelson), a bill to take away the Governor’s ability to select the best and most qualified candidates for the Game and Fish Commission. It is not often that governors sign these kinds of bills. Overall, it lets a few groups control the Game and Fish Commission — this way they can keep out young women who do not have hunting licenses and anyone who thinks that predators have a roll in ecosystems or people who think we should limit the target shooting of prairie dogs. It is sad as this action is likely to undermine support for the Commission system itself and certainly will not give us better wildlife management.

Please continue to ask your legislators to oppose the bills that further harm State Parks and let them know you are disappointed that they failed to really consider HCR2040 sustainable state parks fund (Jones, Brown, Ch. Campbell, et al) or anything like it to help fund our parks.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed a Strike Everything Amendment on lease of state parks on HB2464 by a vote of 6-2-1-0. It forces State Parks to enter into a lease agreement with Lake Havasu City to lease Lake Havasu State Park — and here is the kicker — for only $50,000 per year. That is well below the amount generated by this park, which is at a minimum several hundred thousand. This is one of the parks that makes money and helps support the system, yet now they want to basically steal it and the revenues. It is bad policy and also sends

a terrible message. Please ask your senator to say “no” to HB2464.

HB2599 NOW: state parks fund; voluntary contributions (Kavanagh) passed out of the Senate Government Committee 5-1-2. The bill establishes the Sustainable State Parks Fund, consisting of monies collected through voluntary contributions, which individuals could donate on motor vehicle registration and renewal applications. This is no answer to the State Parks funding needs and is likely to generate little in the way of revenue — especially when people know it could just be swept by the Legislature. Apparently some people think it is better than nothing, but bills like this that help mask the critical needs of Parks are detrimental to the system. HB2599. Please ask your senator to oppose this and support something real to help our parks.

And ask your Senator to vote no on HB2617 mining amendments; water; permits; rules (Jones, Gowan, Mason et al). This bill weakens protections for Arizona’s waters. HB2617 is a classic fox guarding the henhouse bill that establishes the mining advisory council, an entity that will help the agencies make sure the regulations work for the industry. The council will assist with rule making, review decisions by administrative law judges, and generally allow early and undue influence by the mines on the rulemaking process. This bill will result in less protection for Arizona’s waters. It gives mining companies even more exemptions from specific provisions in the law relative to water quality and water quantity and sacrifices protection of our water for the short-term interests of these companies. Senator Nelson is attempting to develop some amendments on it. We shall see. It passed out of the Senate Natural Resources, Infrastructure, and Public Debt Committee 5-2.

Ask your Representatives to Oppose SCR1046 jurisdiction over intrastate waters (C. Gray, Gould: S. Allen, et al). It passed out of the House Water and Energy Committee 5-2-0-1 and could go to the Floor next week. It will also have to go back to the Senate for a Final Read as it is being amended in the House. SCR1046 refers to the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that states that the State of Arizona is the primary regulator of nonnavigable intrastate waters. This is a direct attempt to ensure that many of Arizona’s waters do not have the strong protections of the Clean Water Act. Beginning in 1972, the Clean Water Act protected all the nation’s waters, from small, unnamed streams to the Colorado River. In Arizona, it has protected ephemeral and intermittent streams and the headwater streams as well. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 94% of Arizona’s streams could lose protection under a measure such as SCR1046, merely because they do not flow year round. Similarly, 56% of the streams in Arizona could lose protection because they are head water streams and no other streams flow in to them. Our water supply is already limited here in Arizona, and with an ever growing population, we cannot afford to allow any of it to be polluted and should afford it the strongest protections possible.

To email your legislators or find their direct phone numbers, click on Legislators or paste http://www.azleg.gov/MemberRoster.asp into your browser. If you're outside the Phoenix area, you can call your legislators’ offices toll free at 1-800-352-8404. In the Phoenix area call (602) 926-3559 (Senate) or (602) 926-4221 (House) and ask them to connect you with your legislators.

This was the last week for committees, so from here on out, they will be primarily doing floor work and conference committees. Here is an update on some of the bills we are following:

HB2060 public conservation monies; transfer (Nichols) continues to appear on Third Read calendars in the House. Normally, I would say the bill is dead for the session, but they keep putting it on the calendar, so it makes me think they may at least put it up for a vote, plus I would never underestimate the Legislature suspending the rules to push through a bad bill. It diverts $40 million from the Public Conservation Account in the Land Conservation Fund established by the voters in 1998 when they approved the Growing Smarter Act referred to the ballot by the Arizona Legislature. The dollars are diverted to state parks and to historical societies. While these are worthy causes, they are not the causes for which these dollars were approved by Arizona voters. This bill is unconstitutional, just as it was last year, as it in no way furthers the purpose, plus there is no guarantee that any of these dollars will ever be restored. OPPOSE.

HB2211 political subdivisions; volunteers; noxious weeds (Reagan, Cajero Bedford, Nelson, et al) passed out of the Senate 28-1-1. This bill provides a narrow exemption for licensing requirements relative to pesticide application for volunteers working with political subdivisions and under supervision of a licensed applicator. They must have been trained and there are limits on the amounts and types of herbicides. Limiting the use of herbicides to the greatest degree possible is critical, but it is one of the tools in battling buffel grass and other invasive plants. We encourage your support for this narrow exemption in order to allow application of low toxicity herbicides where absolutely necessary and to battle buffel grass and other invasive plant species that threaten our Sonoran Desert vegetation by crowding out native plants and promoting unnatural fire regimes in these desert landscapes. SUPPORT.

HB2260 regulatory rule making (Tobin) passed out of Senate Government Committee 5-1-2. It makes a number of changes to the rule-making process and also extends the rule-making moratorium to FY 2010-2011. The bill requires that agencies use general permits rather than individual permits and includes several exemptions — one of those exemptions should be that they cannot default to a general permit if the general permit is less protective of the resources or the public health. The problem is that most general permits are less protective and do not require public notice and public hearings, so there is limited to no public involvement. General permits tend to be much less protective of resources, and are being misused already — note that the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issued general permits relating to groundwater protection for two proposed uranium mines. We also object to continuing a rule-making moratorium as it will hinder needed changes and implementation of key programs to protect the environment. OPPOSE.

HB2289 water recharge; direct use (Pratt, McGuire: Barnes) must next go to the Senate Committee of the Whole. HB2289 is another special bill for a mine. It allows the Director of the Department of Water Resources to exclude very specific groundwater when calculating a water storer’s long-term storage credit. This is being added to the statutes specifically for Resolution Copper Company (aka Rio Tinto, a U.K based mining giant). The company is banking “excess” Central Arizona Project water for future mining operations and in doing so accrues long-term credits. Resolution Copper is also dewatering the Magma mine. The groundwater they are pumping should be charged against the credits they get for the CAP water, but they are attempting to create this loophole in the law, so that the groundwater pumping is not charged against their credits. The law requires it to be an offset if the groundwater can be used directly — in this case for the New Magma Irrigation and Drainage District. This bill will allow them to receive those credits and have no offsets on the groundwater that can indeed be directly used. OPPOSE.

HB2337 Arizona manufactured incandescent light bulbs; regulation (Antenori, Biggs, Gowan, et al) awaits action in Senate Rules. It says that incandescent light bulbs that are manufactured and sold in Arizona are not subject to federal law. This is an anti-energy efficiency bill that is probably unconstitutional and is reminiscent of the bill passed by the legislature that made it okay to manufacture and chlorofluorocarbons despite federal law and international treaties. Federal law requires that more efficient light bulbs be manufactured over time. The best thing about this bill is the opportunity for light bulb jokes. OPPOSE.

HB2574 renewable energy districts (Mason, Boone, Ch Campbell, et al) was not voted on in the Senate Finance Committee so is dead — again — for the session. The bill sets up a framework for municipalities and counties to create a renewable energy improvement district. The purpose is to finance the acquisition, installation and improvement of energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation measures that include solar energy systems, combined heat and power systems, rainwater harvesting equipment and systems and gray water systems. Apparently the financial institutions killed this bill. SUPPORT.

HB2661 statewide water augmentation authority; study (Tobin) passed out of the Senate Natural Resources, Infrastructure, and Public Debt Committee 6-0-1. It requires the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) to appoint a Water Resources Development Commission to identify and quantify the water supplies currently available in each county; identify potential water supplies to meet additional demands and the legal and technical issues associated with using those supplies; identify potential mechanisms for financing the acquisition, treatment and delivery of water supplies; and make recommendations regarding further studies and evaluations. There is no mention of conservation or sustainability in this bill, besides, with the cuts to the ADWR there is no way they will be able to properly staff this committee. OPPOSE.

HB2700 solar energy tax incentives; extension (Boone) awaits action in Senate Rules. It extends the tax credits for commercial and industrial solar installations from 2012 to 2018. SUPPORT.

HB2767 water quality fees (Jones, McGuire, Pratt, et al) passed out of the Senate Natural Resources, Infrastructure, and Public Debt Committee 7-0. It establishes a fees advisory council that includes a who’s who of big polluters — it does not even include a token member of the public or environmental advocacy organization. The bill allows the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to assess fees for the pollutant discharge elimination system permit program and to establish them for aquifer protection permits — those are currently capped in session law. We want the agency to be able to assess fees so it can actually implement these programs, but this fee advisory group is a bit much. This is part of the process to make this agency a permit mill. WATCH.

HCR2008 NOW: hunting and fishing; constitutional rights (JP Weiers, Gowan, Crump, et al) passed out of the Senate Natural Resources, Infrastructure, and Public Debt Committee 5-1-1. It refers to the ballot a constitutional amendment that, if passed, will have a significant and negative impact on wildlife and wildlife management in Arizona. Wildlife belongs to all Arizona citizens — hunters and non-hunters, anglers and nonanglers, those who wildlife watch and those who don’t, and this as well as the next generation. It is held in trust by the State of Arizona for their benefit. Establishing a constitutional right to hunt and fish violates that basic trust responsibility and elevates hunting and angling from being a privilege to being a basic right — this proposed constitutional amendment would put hunting and fishing in Article 2 of the Arizona Constitution which is the “Declaration of Rights” in our Constitution. The Arizona Constitution should be for proclaiming rights that guarantee fundamental democratic principles, not for protecting privileges or recreation. OPPOSE.

HCR2039 temporary suspension; voter protected funding (Kavanagh: Antenori, Biggs, et al) passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee 5-4. It refers to the ballot a measure which allows the legislature to appropriate or divert not more than fifty per cent of any fund revenue or fund balance created or allocated to a specific purpose by any measure. This is to nip away at the voter protection act provisions in the Arizona Constitution. If passed by voters — and we do not think they will — it will mean future voter-approved measures are gutted by the Arizona Legislature. OPPOSE.

HCR2041 funding ballot measures; reauthorization (Stevens, Ash, Gowan, et al) passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee 6-3. It refers to the ballot a measure that states that if an initiative or referendum authorizes or requires the expenditure of state monies, that authorization or requirement is valid only for eight fiscal years. At the end of this authorization period, a reauthorization measure has to be referred to the ballot. An automatic referral is unnecessary and unwise as it would mean we would spend all of our time just trying to maintain rather than improve. The Legislature, through a majority vote, can refer any of these measures at any time. OPPOSE.

SB1063 S/E public transportation; regional planning (Nelson) passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure 8-0. It makes changes to the Regional Transportation Plan statute to conform with federal law. It appears to be fine. MONITOR.

SB1193 agricultural best management practices; enforcement (S. Pierce) passed out of the House Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee 6-2 and it was withdrawn from the Environment Committee. It states that the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has exclusive jurisdiction over the enforcement of dust control regulations for agricultural activities in current and future PM-10 nonattainment areas and totally pre-empts local government. This bill sprung out of an enforcement action by Maricopa County, something they should be doing to protect the public health. OPPOSE.

SB1408 agricultural best management; dust; districts (Melvin, S. Allen, Pierce, et al) passed out of the House 38-17-5. It expands the activities that are subject to the Best Management Practices (BMP) general permit to include irrigation districts, but only irrigation districts in nonattainment areas formed after 2009 — this is targeted at Pinal County. It would make the irrigation districts in Pinal County subject to the BMP general permit requirements, but is written so that it doesn't make any other irrigation districts subject to the general permit requirements. Irrigation districts cover quite a lot of land in Pinal County. These BMPs are weak and generally not enforced, so having them apply to more entities will not get us cleaner air, but only will serve to weaken the counties’ ability to implement measures to protect public health. OPPOSE.

SB1359 department of water resources fund (S. Pierce, Aguirre, Ash, et al.) passed out of House Appropriations Committee 10-0-0-3. It establishes the Water Resources Fund and redirects existing fee monies from the state General Fund to this fund. This will allow the fees to be used for the purposes for which they were assessed. Ensuring that our water laws are followed is critical as there is little that is more important than water for Arizona’s future. SUPPORT.

SB1398 federal regulations; local coordination (S. Allen, Gould, C. Gray, et al) passed out of the House Government Committee 6-3-0. It requires a city, town, county, or district to demand through any lawful means that the federal government coordinate with the city, town, county or district before implementing, enforcing, or extending federal regulations. It appears to be aimed primarily at environmental protections. We support coordination on all levels relative to all laws, but we do not support the provisions of this bill which are more about trying to scuttle moving forward with planning and action relative to environmental protections. OPPOSE.

SB1201 renewable energy tax incentive revisions (Leff) passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee 7-1 and the House Water and Energy Committee 7-0-1. It fixes many of the problems with last year’s manufacturing tax credits bill and clarifies dates and qualifications for the program. SUPPORT.

SB1410 trust land exchanges; military preservation (Nelson) passed out of the House Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee 7-0-0-1. It includes the statutory provisions for exchanging state trust lands under narrow conditions and for very specific purposes. The specific lands to be exchanged would have to be referred to the ballot and approved by the voters. They have to do an assessment, appraisals, public meetings and comments prior to moving forward the exchange. The measures in this bill are conditional on the public passing SCR1047. SUPPORT.

SB1411 NOW: dairy farms; zoning; agricultural purpose (Nelson) passed out of the House Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee 6-1-0-1. It exempts feeding pens, feed lots and feed areas from county zoning regulations. This is ridiculous. Counties must have the authority to zone to ensure compatible uses — that protects residents as well as these facilities. The environmental impacts of these large feed lot operations are significant including air quality and water quality issues. This bill will ensure more conflicts between residents and these types of operations, which is what zoning is intended to avoid. OPPOSE.

SB1445 groundwater transportation; Big Chino sub-basin (S. Pierce, Burns, Nelson) passed out of the Senate 20-9-1. This is a bill to address a portion of the Salt River Project (SRP) and Prescott agreement in principle relative to the Big Chino Sub-Basin and the upper portion of the Verde River. The Big Chino Sub-Basin is key to the Verde River as it provides more than 80% of the base flows for the upper stretches. Back in 1991, a special provision was written into the Groundwater Code which allows Prescott to import water from outside the Active Management Area. These measures generally do not keep rivers and streams flowing and do not create a sustainable system. There is a companion bill in the House — HB2561 agency accounts; technical correction (Mason) and its strike everything amendment on groundwater transportation; Big Chino sub-basin. OPPOSE.

SCR1009 publicly financed elections; prohibition (Paton) was held in the House Judiciary Committee and appears to be dead for the session. It refers to the ballot a measure to prohibit the use of public dollars for financing elections. If passed by the voters it would eliminate Clean Elections. The last thing Arizona needs is more money in politics. OPPOSE.

SCR1043 NOW: clean elections; funds; transfer (C. Gray) failed in the House Judiciary Committee 4-4. It would have referred to the ballot a measure that transfers the Clean Elections Fund to the Classroom Site Fund. We support fixing the Clean Elections Act, not repealing it or defunding. Clean Elections provides an opportunity for people to run who are not beholden to a particular set of interests. We should work together to make it as effective possible, not throw the baby out with the bathwater. OPPOSE.

SCR1047 state lands; military installation; preservation (Nelson) passed out of the House Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee 7-0-0-1. It refers to the ballot a constitutional amendment that authorizes land exchanges between the State Land Department and the Federal Government. The land exchanges can be for two purposes including for protection of military facilities and to provide for proper management, protection or public use of state lands. An exchange would have to be referred to the ballot by the Legislature and approved by the voters in order to be consummated. All exchanges must have two appraisals and analysis as well as be vetted at two public meetings. Full disclosure of the parcels involved is also required. We have opposed most of the past land exchange measures — exchange proposals have been on the ballot six times and defeated by the voters six times — but we are supporting this proposal because it includes the kind of transparency and accountability that is necessary to ensure that land exchanges are in the best interest of the trust and the larger public. SUPPORT.

If you are not sure who your legislators are, please go to http://azredistricting.org/mapping/default2.asp?tname=Interim.2009.Legislative.Map&service=ircmaps&Layer4=on&Layer1=on&action=zoomin&ActiveLayer=16 or call the House or Senate information desks. For more information on bills we are tracking, go to http://arizona.sierraclub.org/political_action/tracker/ Thank you!

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