Friday, April 8, 2011

Sierra Club: "A Bad Budget for Our State Parks and for Arizona Overall"

Posted By on Fri, Apr 8, 2011 at 10:48 AM

Sandy Bahr of the Sierra Club sends her weekly bulletin recounting the week at the Arizona Legislature:

Hello all! As expected, the Governor signed the budget that includes the fund sweeps from parks and ensures more park closures, layoffs of parks personnel, and more. This is a bad budget for our state parks and for Arizona overall. It was put together behind closed doors and was jammed through by suspending the rules and ignoring key concerns. The process was so bad that they actually passed a bill thinking it had been amended, when it had not. They sought to have the Governor send it back, but apparently her staff recognized the impropriety of doing so. What a big mess.

Also, the bill to limit public involvement in transmission line siting in Arizona is still alive. If you have not done so, please contact your representatives and ask them to oppose the strike everything amendment on SB1517 (Melvin, Aboud: Antenori, et al). It deals with transmission lines; environmental compatibility certificates. All transmission lines that are greater than 115 kilovolts must get a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and go through the line siting process. This proposed striker is being proposed by the proponents of the proposed SunZia Southwest Transmission Project, which consists of two 500 kilovolt transmission lines that if built, will stretch across about 460 miles of Arizona and New Mexico. Several of the proposed locations in Arizona would affect important public lands and wildlife habitat, including the San Pedro River and the Aravaipa watershed.

The proponents have been trying to jam this bill through this session, so the project is not subject to review and approval, denial, or approval with conditions by the Arizona Power Plant and Transmission Line Siting Committee process. It will limit public input and access to information and potentially give Arizona less of a voice on these multi-state projects.

You can call the House at (602) 926-4221 and ask for your representatives.

And ask House members to oppose SB1167 S/E: legislation; referenda challenges (Yarbrough). The bill has a strike-everything that would enact an emergency measure to establish a statute of limitations for actions to challenge the legal sufficiency of a measure referred by the legislature. It says they must

be filed within 20 days in non-election years and with 10 days during election years. This will severely limit the ability of groups to challenge the lawfulness and constitutionality of measures referred by the Arizona Legislature as there will be limited time to analyze, consider, and seek legal council. Let’s face it. They just are not all that careful about following the law or making sure something is constitutional.

To call from outside the Phoenix area, use the toll free number at 1-800-352-8404. In the Phoenix area call (602) 926-4221 (House). Ask them to connect you to your legislators’ offices. Remember calls can be very effective ways of reaching your elected officials — emails are easier to ignore.

Here are some bill updates:

HB2208 NOW: agriculture best management practices; rules (Reeve) awaits Committee of the Whole action in the Senate. The bill allows the Agricultural Best Management Practices Committee to adopt revisions to its rules as exempt rules with an immediate effective date in order to comply with the failure of Maricopa County to attain the air quality health-based standard for coarse particulates — PM-10. The Best Management Practices (BMPs) for agriculture have been a bit of a joke and certainly weak. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has indicated they need to be enforceable on some level, so this bill requires that they actually implement one of them and that the rules require them to keep records and report. That is an improvement. There will be an amendment on the Floor to require general permits that include mitigation measures for dry and windy days for facilities that are considered dust generators. It, of course, does not include vacant lots as the Association of REALTORS® is effective at fighting any additional accountability in real estate. We will likely support this bill.

HB2114 (NOW: fish eradication; moratorium; study committee) was amended on the floor to instate a moratorium on fish eradication by any means other mechanical in the Sonoita Creek Watershed for the next year. It also sets up a study committee to look at the human health risks of fish eradication methods. This is nothing more than a thinly disguised effort to stop native fish recovery. To repatriate native fishes, it requires eradication of the non-native fishes. While we encourage the careful and limited use of any chemical, including piscicides such as Rotenone and Antimycin A, this bill seeks to erect additional barriers and an unnecessary and poorly focused study committee. If this was a serious effort to protect our waters and to protect human health, it would address the many agricultural pesticides that actually do pollute our water and not just target chemicals that are used only for native fish recovery and that have not shown up in any drinking water due to the fact they break down very quickly. Apparently Game and Fish and SRP have signed off on this. OPPOSE.

HB2705 waste programs; general permits; fees (Reeve) awaits action by the Committee of the Whole in the Senate. It already passed out of the House. The bill eliminates specific fees and provides fee authority and general permit authority to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality for solid waste programs. This relates to facilities such as waste tire collection sites and landfills. It also removes the specific percentages for activities in the Recycling Fund and allows the agency to establish fees related to hauling of biomedical hazardous waste, septage, etc. We support allowing the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to increase fees for waste programs, so those fees can cover the costs of implementing the programs, reviewing and evaluating permits, and enforcement activities related to the permits. We do have some concerns overall, however.

Our major concern about the bill is the general permit authority for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality relative to waste programs. This gives the director of the agency enormous discretion to establish these permits for a “defined class of facilities.” We cannot fathom what class of solid waste facilities would be appropriate for general permits. Once the general permit is established, there is no public notice or opportunity to comment or seek changes. Would the department be permitting landfills or used tire sites without public notice or comment? If there is a specific class of facilities that is appropriate for general permits, perhaps the legislature should identify it rather than giving the agency this broad open-ended authority. This type of discretion has been abused in other programs, such as with the Aquifer Protection Permit program where the agency is actually permitting uranium mines with general permits. OPPOSE.

HCM2002 remove gray wolf; endangered species (JP Weiers, Ash, Fann, et al) awaits final action by the Arizona Senate. It asks the U.S. Congress to act immediately to remove protections for these endangered wolves under the Endangered Species Act. This puts the decision about wolves’ recovery in the hands of politicians, not biologists. OPPOSE.

SB1171 cities; acquisition of wastewater utility (Antenori, Griffin, Melvin, et al) passed out of the Senate and awaits final action in the House. It allows a city or town to acquire all or any part of a sewage system from a county. This is part of a fight between Pima County and Marana. Marana thinks the county is limiting its ability to grow — apparently the economy has nothing to do with that. We finally got Pima County to upgrade these facilities, so they are not regularly violating the Clean Water Act, why would we want to see Marana take over. OPPOSE.

SB1286 counties; cities; permits; time limit (Klein, Bundgaard, Harper, et al) passed out of the Senate 17-8-5, passed out of House Government, and awaits action by Rules. It says that within sixty days after receipt of a complete application for any permit issued by a city or town, the city or town shall approve or deny the proposed application. A failure to respond within sixty days after receiving a complete application for any permit constitutes approval of the application. This will result in more bad projects getting permitted. OPPOSE.

SB1322 NOW: managed competition; city services (Antenori) passed out of the Senate 18-10-2. It passed out of House Government Committee and Rules. It was placed on the consent calendar, but there was an objection, so it now awaits action by the House Committee of the Whole. The bill requires larger cities to put most services out for bid to private entities. It is ridiculous and could result in more privatization of water and other essential services, even though it is not cost-effective and could risk the quality of our drinking water. OPPOSE.

SB1324 vehicle emissions testing; older vehicles (Antenori, Gowan, Harper et al) awaits action by the Committee of the Whole in the House. It exempts vehicles that are older than those manufactured prior to 1974 from vehicle emissions testing requirements. The exemption is conditional and effective upon the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) approval, as well as the federal approval for two previously enacted exemptions from emissions testing requirements. Why? It is not like we have our air quality problems under control and these are the last vehicles you would want to exempt from emissions. While it is encouraging to see the Senate recognizing the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the Clean Air Act, this bill represents a step backwards in clean air efforts. At a time when we are struggling to meet federal health-based standards for various pollutants, including particulates and ozone, this is the absolute wrong direction to take.

SB1525 city; town; development fees (R. Pearce, Allen, Driggs, et al.) passed out of the Senate 16-13-1, passed out of House Government Committee and House Rules. It awaits action by the House Committee of the Whole. It further restricts cities’ ability to impose impact fees, thus promoting additional subsidies for development. This whole concept that development impact fees are hurting the economy and stopping development is ludicrous. Until the real estate, banking and financial interests brought the economy to its knees, they could not bulldoze fast enough and impact fees were in place. Why shouldn’t we have development pay for itself, especially when we continue to have empty houses throughout our state? It says they cannot assess impact fees for larger regional parks, among other things. OPPOSE.

SB1598 cities; counties; regulatory review (Klein, Allen, Burges, et al) passed out of the Senate 21-9, passed out of the House Government Committee and House Rules and awaits action by the Committee of the Whole. It seeks to further tie the hands of cities and counties when it comes to licensing and permitting. These provisions were enacted for the state Department of Environmental Quality several years ago. It includes licensing time frames, which in effect means they churn out permits without the kind of review they should have, among other problems. OPPOSE.

SCR1024 intrastate water resources; state sovereignty (Griffin) passed out of the Senate 20-9-1 and awaits action by the House Committee of the Whole. The bill is an anti-Clean Water Act resolution that says the legislature supports the continued sovereignty and jurisdiction of the states to regulate intrastate water resources and opposes any attempt by the federal government to diminish this jurisdiction unnecessarily — in this regard, they mean the Clean Water Act and they have no intention of putting protections in place. This is still silly, but at least, it is just a resolution. OPPOSE.

SCR1025 public funds: political candidates; ban (S. Pierce: Bundgaard) passed out of the Senate 20-9-1 and awaits final action in the House. It refers to the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that prohibits public funds from being used to provide campaign support for candidates for public office. This is a backdoor repeal of Clean Elections and the public financing system that has been in place in Tucson for decades. OPPOSE.

SCR1033 best available control technology; generation (Allen: Griffin, Klein, et al) passed out of the Senate 22-8 and awaits action by House Rules. This resolution urges the Department of Environmental Quality, in issuing Prevention of Significant Deterioration permits for new coal‑fueled power plants, to consider the use of commercially available technologies that are designed to be as efficient as is economically practicable, including advanced super‑critical pulverized coal, ultra super‑critical pulverized coal, etc. This would be contrary to the Clean Air Act and to anyone’s interpretation of Prevention of Significant Deterioration. OPPOSE.

SCM1007 state lands; mining; exploration (Melvin) awaits action by the House Committee of the Whole. It is only a “postcard” and does not affect the law, but it is a truly bad message to send. The memorial asks the Department of Interior not to withdraw from mining, one million acres of public lands near Grand Canyon. There are several inaccurate statements contained in the memorial, plus protecting these lands is a good idea that is broadly supported. OPPOSE.