Report from the ADP Environmental Caucus

by Christa Sadler, 2d Vice Chair

Greetings from the second vice-chair of the ADP Environmental Caucus. Of the five officers elected at the January 26, 2019 meeting, Coconino County at least has one voice!

The mission of the ADP Environmental Caucus is to strive toward educating and engaging its members on environmental issues affecting Arizona and our planet, and to elect candidates and enact legislation that:

  • Encourage responsible environmental stewardship;
  • Work towards promoting environmental and social justice;
  • Preserve and protect our communities, air quality, public lands, parks, rivers and streams and wildlife;
  • Promote clean renewable energy and energy efficiency in order to reduce pollution and the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change.

The environmental caucus is newly established; the meeting on January 26 was only its third. Despite that fact, at least 60 people were in attendance at the standing room only meeting. After an initial introduction by the founder of the caucus Rebecca Hinton, the group held elections for chair, first vice chair, second vice chair, secretary, and parliamentarian. The results are as follows:

  • Chair: Rebecca Hinton, Maricopa County
  • First Vice Chair: Korey Hjelmeir, Maricopa County
  • Second Vice Chair: Christa Sadler, Coconino County
  • Secretary: Marielyn White, Maricopa County
  • Parliamentarian: Dale Volz, Maricopa County

The featured speaker for the meeting was Sandy Bahr, Chapter Director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter.

Sandy gave us a recap of environmental and anti-environmental legislation introduced and passed (or completely ignored) by the Arizona legislature in 2018. She pointed out that there are way too many Fs on the environmental report card for the legislatures. We need to keep working to raise those grades and the best way to do that is to elect people with a better GPA!

She also discussed some things to expect in the coming legislative session, as well as in the run-up to 2020.  Some concerns are that the speaker of the Arizona house, Rusty Bowers, has a very poor record on environmental issues. The president of the senate, Karen Fann, is something of an unknown. The minority leaders are, not surprisingly, better. We are closer to parity with the Republicans in the Arizona legislature than we have been for a while, but it is still a Republican dominated legislature, so we need to keep the pressure up on those legislators regarding environmental issues and legislation.

As expected, the opening of the Arizona legislature involved no mention of climate change or the border wall. Some of the big upcoming issues:

Water Legislation

Arizona needs to sign the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan by January 31, or the federal government will create a plan for us. This is a big deal, because Arizona loses the ability to help define its future in terms of Colorado River water use if we let that deadline pass. If the feds decide on the plan, anyone with a larger voice, such as California, could have a larger say in the final outcome.

The DCP is not perfect, by any means. It involves no moneys or legislation to help rivers, streams, springs, groundwater, or to promote conservation. It actually promotes and pays for more groundwater pumping in Pinal County. It proposes uses $35 million from the state general fund to accomplish this and other actions. The Arizona legislature is finally taking this seriously, which is about time, considering that it has to sign on by the 31st.

The Sierra Club has introduced legislation that would promote ecological water as a beneficial use of water. Up till now, “beneficial use” as defined by water law has always had everything to do with agriculture and municipal use, not the health of rivers and streams.

Public Lands Bills

Several have been introduced in the legislature. Some are good, some are not good at all. Shockingly, Bob Thorpe introduced a bill to remediate and clean up uranium mining sites. There is also an attempt to bring back the State Parks Heritage Fund.

Climate Change

There may be a clean car measure being introduced, and Senator Mendez is introducing an initiative to increase renewable energy in Arizona.

Fracking

This is becoming a major issue, since the BLM just handed out permits that would allow for fracking for helium, oil, and gas near Petrified Forest National Park. Senator Mendez and Representative Tsosie both introduced bills to prohibit helium fracking near the park.

Other Legislation

There are some other pretty awful bills that have been introduced. Senator Kavanaugh (what is it about that name?) has introduced a bill that would require that any potential legislation needs signatures from all legislative districts in the state to be introduced. There are also bills that would increase voter suppression. Especially important are the following:

SB 1046 would require that all early voting MUST be by mail; people cannot go to the polling place to turn in their ballot.

SB 1072 would require a photo ID

Finally, if you want to get you voice out there for environmental issues, a great opportunity will be on February 13. Environmental Day at the Capitol is a great event, with hundreds of people coming from all over the state to support our environment. This year, Sierra Club is introducing “5 Cs for a Sustainable Future” from 8:30 AM to 2:00 PM in the Rose Garden area of the Capitol Complex, 1700 W. Washington in Phoenix. If you are interested in going, you can find more information from the Sierra Club at: https://act.sierraclub.org/events/details?formcampaignid=7010Z0000027842QAA&mapLinkHref=https://maps.google.com/maps&daddr=Environmental%20Day%20at%20the%20Capitol@33.448112,-112.097084

If anyone is interested in being placed on the caucus’s mailing list for meetings or information, please contact me and I’ll pass your information on to Rebecca. To sign up, send your info to info@ccdem.org.

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