Friday, May 22, 2009

Sierra Club Bulletin: Lawmakers Move to Strip Away Environmental Protection

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2009 at 8:45 AM

Sandy Bahr, lobbyist for the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, does a fine job of tracking environmental legislation and writing a weekly update of goings-on. Here's her latest weekly update on the budget and other anti-environmental legislation that's beginning to move through the sluggish Legislature:

Hi all! The Senate Appropriations Committee heard and passed budget bills this week, although it is pretty clear the bills are not advancing quickly to a vote on the Floor. It was almost too painful to observe the committee as the Committee Chair and generally the majority promoted a moratorium on rule-making, a moratorium on development impact fees, proposed swiping the existing dollars from impact fees, and did their best to ignore environmental protection. As you can see, they are including significant policy issues in the budget bills. What was really hard to bear in this Committee Hearing was the Homebuilders Association of Central Arizona lobbyist testifying on how the public should further subsidize that industry (my words) — this from an industry that has benefitted significantly from our tax dollars and whose practices have helped to bring our economy to its knees. Could we possibly make it any easier to bulldoze large swaths of desert? Apparently our legislators think so.

On Tuesday, the Arizona House will hear two bills in Committee of the Whole that are anti-environmental. The first deals with air quality and the second one addresses water quality. Both are terrible.

Ask House members to oppose the strike everything amendment

on HB2181 dust control practices; technical correction (Konopnicki). The strike-everything amendment, agricultural best management practices; dairies, does several things which will contribute to poor air quality.

It adds two people to the agricultural best management practices committee — someone representing a cattle feedlot and someone representing a dairy; this just means more foxes guarding the henhouse. The bill also shifts the regulation of feedlots and dairies from the county to this state best management practices committee and to limited, if any, oversight.

Members of the best management practices committee are appointed by the Governor and are responsible for adopting an agricultural general permit that outlines best management practices for regulated agricultural activities in order to reduce particulate (PM-10) emissions. As drafted, the bill will mean backsliding on our state implementation plan for particulates and violates the Clean Air Act as there is no guarantee the best management practices will be as strong as or stronger than those required at the county level. These feedlots and dairies are not your family farms, but represent industrial agriculture and all of its associated environmental problems. They should be regulated as such.

Coarse particulates (PM10) are particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller. (For comparison, the average human hair is about 75 microns.) When these particles are inhaled, they can affect the heart and lungs and increase respiratory symptoms, irritation of the airways, coughing, difficulty breathing, and more. The elderly, children, and those with respiratory or other health issues are at greatest risk relative to particulate pollution.

Please ask legislators to support clean air and oppose HB2181.

To email your House Members or find their direct phone numbers, click on Arizona House or paste http://www.azleg.gov/memberRoster.asp?Body=H into your browser. Click on the legislator’s name and his or her email will come up. If you are not sure who your legislators are, please go to http://www.vote-smart.org or call the House information desk. If you're outside the Phoenix area, you can call your legislators’ offices toll free at 1-800-352-8404 and ask to be connected. In the Phoenix area call (602) 926-4221 (House) and ask them to connect you with your legislators.

Also, ask House Members to protect Arizona’s rivers and streams by opposing the strike everything amendment on HCR2030. The strike everything amendment on this bill is titled Arizona's water protection, ironically enough. What it advocates is no protection for most of our rivers and streams.

The strike-everything amendment on HCR2030 encourages members of Congress to oppose the “expansion of the federal Point Source Discharge Program” as current legislation proposes and “oppose any legislation that would result in the expansion of federal jurisdiction and emasculation of the states’ jurisdiction.” The legislation they mention is called the Clean Water Restoration Act and it hardly “emasculates” state jurisdiction, but it does ensure that waters have the minimal protections afforded by the Clean Water Act, rather than weak, if any, protections at the state level.

The Clean Water Restoration Act restores the traditional scope of protection intended by Congress. Americans need these safeguards to achieve the goal of restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters.

This strike everything in the Arizona House is merely a “postcard” to Congress, but it again sends a bad message. It is important that the Legislature understand that people in Arizona are opposed to undercutting protective legislation at the federal level, especially when the state is not stepping up to do its job.

Since Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, we have made great progress in cleaning up our nation’s waters, but that progress is in jeopardy. The law historically has protected the nation’s lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands from unregulated pollution and destruction. Today, however, many water bodies are being denied the Act’s protections against pollution. Polluters argue that Supreme Court decisions from 2001 and 2006 mean that the law’s safeguards are only available for “navigable” water bodies (or for waters that are significantly linked to such water bodies). The Clean Water Restoration Act is needed to restore the longstanding protections originally intended by Congress.

In Arizona, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 56 percent of the streams have no other streams flowing into them, and that 94 percent do not flow year-round. Under varying interpretations of the most recent Supreme Court decision, these smaller water bodies are among those for which the extent of Clean Water Act protections has been questioned.

We need Congress to support the Clean Water Restoration Act, not oppose it as the strike-everything amendment on HCR2030 encourages. Ask your representatives in the Arizona House of Representatives to oppose the strike-everything amendment on HCR2030 and to support clean water.

There are no committee hearings that include environmental bills next week, but of course that could change by the end of today. For more information on bills we are tracking, click on Legislative Tracker or paste http://arizona.sierraclub.org/political_action/tracker/ into your browser.

Thank you for all you do and all of your great support!

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