is today’s appropriate focus, for this is
, including the 50th Anniversary of
on Wednesday, April 22.
The Arizona Legislature considers many bills affecting water, land, energy, environment and wildlife. Major multi-year trends include favoring livestock, ranching, agriculture, mining, energy and real estate development over environmental quality, preservation of public lands, species protection, heritage responsibilities, tourism and outdoor recreation … and attacking regulations, oversight, and the public’s right to know what is happening. Below are some of the many bills introduced this Session. These bills tend to elicit heavily partisan votes. Some will fail, but given the composition of the Legislature and prevalence of party-line votes, many will pass.
ENVIRONMENTALLY HARMFUL LEGISLATION.
- asks Congress to study implementing a harmful diversion dam and pipeline to partly address the water supply shortage in Lake Powell and Lake Mead.
- asks the federal government to operate the expensive, inefficient, and environmentally harmful Yuma Desalting Plant.
HB2686 / SB1222
- limits local government’s ability to constrain fracked natural gas lines in areas of new construction to protect public health and limit greenhouse emissions; pushed by Southwest Gas.
- weakens the definition of “replenishment obligation” of groundwater to the benefit of real estate developers and builders.
- uses environmental technology assistance to promote biomass burning, which is expensive and emits a lot of pollution.
- could adversely impact efforts to conserve river water by allowing junior right holders to use the water unless a senior right holder, including the State, meets certain conditions.
- grants tax breaks for energy storage equipment, but does not require that the energy it stores be renewable.
- prohibits any sale of private property to the federal government without the approval of the Governor and the Legislature. That’s right. It would interfere with creation and expansion of community parks, historic and cultural sites, and natural areas.
SCR1010 Strike Everything
- an expected “striker” that will refer to the ballot a constitutional amendment allowing limitation of funding of renewable energy and electric vehicle charging stations.
● MULTI-PRONGED EFFORT TO WEAKEN AGENCY AND PUBLIC OVERSIGHT OF POTENTIALLY HARMFUL DECISIONS AND ACTIVITIES.
- prohibits local governments from requiring building permits for border wall construction on private lands along the border.
- prohibits the Arizona Department of Water Resources from reviewing the physical availability of groundwater and weakens its ability to determine an adequate water supply.
- prohibits county Boards of Supervisors from requiring applicants for a land subdivision to conduct a survey or pay property taxes as conditions of approval.
- removes responsibility for a desert tortoise survey from the biologists at Arizona Game and Fish to a policy institute that was formed to represent livestock interests.
- weakens recommendations from the Archaeology Advisory Commission responsible for advising on protection of cultural sites, by stacking it with a member from the livestock industry and another from a “conservation district,” not all of which are conservation focused.
- puts the Archaeology Advisory Commission on life support by limiting its continuation to only one year.
- requires the Commission to cut back and hasten its report process for “rangeland improvements” - continuing the efforts of livestock interests to limit protection of cultural resources.
- makes information about endangered species collected from private property owners confidential and limits its disclosure to the public.
- resolution for special involvement of the hard rock mining industry in any regulatory changes, in preference to more environmentally friendly sectors such as tourism and outdoor recreation.
- establishes a committee to study dam safety, without any members with dam safety expertise.
- repeals all administrative rules on July 1, 2022, unless extended by the agency through a rule making process; and it repeals the Arizona Administrative Code each year, beginning July 1, 2023, unless continued by the Legislature. Yep. Would virtually shut down agencies by requiring them to spend all their time on rule making.
- declares all Bureau of Land Management regulations and all federal agency regulations enacted after July 1, 2020, null and unenforceable in AZ - probably unconstitutional.
● MOVING REGULATORY DECISIONS TO LESS RELIABLE BODIES.
The Legislature is moving responsibility and power for many conservation functions from traditional responsible agencies to existing Natural Resource Conservation Districts (“NRCDs”). Many NRCD’s are agriculture-focused. Some NRCD’s are not really conservation-focused. Some NRCD’s do not have many
members expert in their subject areas. NRCD’s are not subject to oversight and accountable to the public. Examples of such bills include
HB2416, HB2417, HB2612, HB2621, HB2295, HB2365,
● ATTACKING VOTING, INITIATIVE, AND ELECTION RIGHTS.
Environmental groups share our concerns about the attacks on Voting Rights, Citizens’ Initiatives, and Clean Elections that were highlighted in the April 5 issue of this Bulletin. Most Arizonans want to preserve nature, public lands, outdoor recreation, the tourism economy, clean air and water, and our unique wildlife. They tend to vote accordingly, which is counter to the agricultural, ranching, energy, mining, and real estate development interests that many legislators support.
● GOOD BILLS.
A broken clock is right two times a day, and, of course, there are some good environmental bills produced in the legislature. Examples include two bills,
, that grant $10 million to the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund.
requires the state mine inspector to have 8 years experience with mining and knowledge of worker health and safety.
and other bills appropriate funds for establishment or improvement of specific new or existing state parks. This is not an exhaustive list. Good bills have a better chance of being passed if they do not tread on the economic interests of lobbies to which many legislators are responsive.