Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Legislative Session: Environmental Wrap-Up

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2011 at 10:57 AM

The Sierra Club's Sandy Bahr rounds up the last of the environmental legislation that moved through the statehouse this year:

Hello all! Well, at least it is finally over and even though it was a relatively short session, it seemed extremely long. It is tempting to say, “It could have been worse,” but then that lets the legislature off the hook for a variety of god-awful actions, many of which will be resurrected for next year. We have this magnificent state filled with amazing natural wonders and they would mortgage our natural capital to advantage one business or one industry or to serve some personal perceived slight. It is our health, the state’s biological diversity, and the future of Arizona’s children that are most at risk.

This is the last update for the year (unless they do a special session), but in the coming weeks, we will issue our report card on the Arizona Legislature and the Governor, so watch for that. Thank you all for hanging in there and making the calls, sending the emails, and for caring enough to take action. While it can be discouraging and frustrating, your actions can and did make a difference. Here is the first case in point.

SB1517 S/E transmission lines; environmental compatibility certificates, the bill to limit public involvement in transmission line siting in Arizona, failed in the House Committee of the Whole 14-40-6. It is unusual for bills to die in Committee of the Whole, especially by such a large margin. Kudos go to the Cascabel Working Group and the many people who worked to defeat this bill. Towards the end, agricultural interests weighed in to oppose it as well. All of this resulted in rejection of a truly bad public policy. Please take the time to call and thank House members who voted against the bill. Just click on SB1517 Vote Detail to see who voted no and

who voted yes. If you do not have access to email or the Internet, feel free to call me or call the House to see how your legislators voted. 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) 926-4221 (House) and ask them to connect you with your legislators.

Also, HB2114 (NOW: fish eradication; moratorium; study committee) failed in the House 10-50. It would have significantly hindered native fish recovery efforts in Arizona. Thanks to everyone for helping defeat this, including Game and Fish, anglers, and all of you. To see how your legislators voted, just click on HB2114 House Vote. Please thank them accordingly. Calling is always a nice way to reach out. See above for phoning information.

Despite being able to turn back the tide on a couple of really bad pieces of legislation, there were several other terrible bills that advanced. Legislators passed HB2397 taxes; sale of trust lands (Jones), which will open lands that are part of the Petrified Forest National Park expansion area to mining activity. These state trust lands were closed to mineral development when the U.S. Congress passed a bill to expand the national park. Support for this expansion was bipartisan — Senator McCain was a strong supporter, Senator Kyl was recognized by the National Parks Conservation Association for his work on the bill, and both Democrats and Republicans in the Arizona delegation in the U.S. House co-sponsored the bill and voted for the Petrified Forest National Park Expansion Act.

Please ask Governor Brewer to veto HB2397. You can contact her by calling (602) 542-4331 or toll free at 1-(800) 253-0883. Email her by clicking on Governor Brewer and then filling in the online form.

Here are some additional bill updates:

HB2208 NOW: agriculture best management practices; rules (Reeve) passed out of the Senate 30-0 and the House 59-0-1. It 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 and might result in agriculture doing a bit more to address air quality issues.

The bill also authorizes the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to issue a general permit that includes best management practices (BMPs) designed to control dust on days that are forecasted to be high risk for dust generation. Entities that currently have a county permit would not be subject to the general permit, but would be required to incorporate dust control measures into their current permit and implement them on high risk days. While we think there is more to be done to address this important public health issue, we are supporting the bill as it moves us one step forward for improving air quality. SUPPORT.

HB2239 state parks board; membership (Goodale) passed the Senate 20-8-2 and the House 60-0. It adds a tourism professional to the Parks Board — this replaces one of the two representatives from the livestock industry. This really does not address any of the significant issues with Parks, but it does no harm either. NEUTRAL.

HB2358 wildlife; guides; wasted meat (JP Weirs, Stevens: D. Smith) passed out of the Senate 30-0 and House 35-23-2 and is on the Governor’s desk. It clarifies the definition of guide and adds wasting game meet to the list of violations for which a hunting license can be revoked. SUPPORT.

HB2705 waste programs; general permits; fees (Reeve) passed out of the Senate 16-14 and the House 41-19. 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. Representative Reeve has indicated that she is willing to work on the systemic problem with general permits, so stay tuned on that. OPPOSE.

HCM2002 remove gray wolf; endangered species (JP Weiers, Ash, Fann, et al) passed out of the Senate along party lines 21-9. 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.

SB1167 NOW: legislation; referenda challenges (Yarbrough) was passed in both houses with an emergency clause, meaning they had a two-thirds vote in each house and it became law upon the signature of the Governor. It establishes a statute of limitations for legal actions to challenge any measure referred by the legislature. It says the challenge must be filed within 20 days in non-election years and within 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. OPPOSE.

SB1171 cities; acquisition of wastewater utility (Antenori, Griffin, Melvin, et al) passed out of the House 36-23-1 and was signed by the Governor. 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? Pima County has had to upgrade these facilities, so they are not regularly violating the Clean Water Act, will Marana have the capacity to do the same and to ensure that the facility is not being overburdened? It is a terrible precedent. OPPOSE.

SB1286 counties; cities; permits; time limit (Klein, Bundgaard, Harper, et al) never came to the House Floor, so it died for this session. 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 would have resulted in the permitting of more bad projects. OPPOSE.

SB1322 NOW: managed competition; city services (Antenori) passed out of the House 34-22-4 and the Senate 20-7-3 and has been transmitted to the Governor. The bill requires larger cities with populations of 500,000 or more persons — right now Phoenix and Tucson — to put many 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 and the public health. This was being pushed by Sal Diccio, a Phoenix city council person, who apparently has not read his job description. OPPOSE.

SB1324 vehicle emissions testing; older vehicles (Antenori, Gowan, Harper et al) passed out of the House 40-19-1 and the Senate 21-8-1 and was signed by the Governor. 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. OPPOSE.

SB1525 city; town; development fees (R. Pearce, Allen, Driggs, et al.) was further amended after the cities and the homebuilders cut a deal. It passed out of the House 41-18-1 and the Senate 20-10 and is on the Governor’s desk. 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 does end the moratorium on impact fees the end of this year — of course that is not much consolation if the cities/taxpayers have to eat even more of the cost of development. OPPOSE.

SB1598 cities; counties; regulatory review (Klein, Allen, Burges, et al) passed out of the House 41-17-2 and on Final Read in the Senate 22-7-1 and has been transmitted to the Governor. She will need to address in the next day. 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 House 40-18-2 and has been transmitted to the Secretary of State for distribution. 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 House 43-13-4. 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) is a nice piece of fiction promoting the idea of “Clean Coal.” From mining it to burning it, there is absolutely nothing clean about it. This resolution passed out of the House 39-20-1 and the Senate 21-9. 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) passed out of the Senate 21-8-1 and the House 41-17-2. It contains more “misinformation” (that is the kindest term I can apply to it.) It is only a “postcard” or message and does not affect the law, but it is a truly bad message to send and we should be able to expect more of our elected officials. 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.

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