Environmental News and Action Alerts

by Christa Sadler, 2d Vice Chair of ADP Environmental Caucus

Drought Contingency Plan

Arizona finally got realistic and signed the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) on the very last day they could do so, January 31. Doing so avoided the need to have the feds step in and decide for us how our water issues would be dealt with. It also avoided destroying the compromise that all the other Colorado River Basin states agreed on. Arizona has a history of being somewhat, shall we say, stubborn when it comes to signing on to Western water agreements, so this is something of a relief.

The Drought Contingency Plan calls for all the states of the basin to take less water for their uses, in order to keep reservoirs (especially Lake Mead) above critical levels. Once Lake Mead drops to a specific level, emergency protocols kick in in terms of water use. This means that Arizona loses the Central Arizona Project, for which it agreed to take junior water rights (meaning it’s one of the first things to go when times get tougher). For Arizona, this means that we will have to find ways to reduce our water consumption by as much as 700,000 acre-feet of water, roughly 228 billion gallons of water.

The DCP is not by any means perfect, however. Since Pinal County’s farmers have very junior water rights, they had to give up their rights to Colorado River water. This will be made up at least in part by in increased groundwater pumping, which is no better, since groundwater is in dire straits as well in much of the state.

The main opposition to the DCP came from three Democratic Senators (Mendez, Quezada and Dalessandro), who pointed that the plan doesn’t rein in water consumption, ignores the facts of climate change, and essentially supports an unsustainable water policy. Now it will be up to the voices of the environmental community to help push for ways of managing our water use that are more sustainable and that recognize climate change as a reality. We need to keep pushing for that language to appear regularly in legislation.

National Monument Legislation

On Wednesday, January 30, Representative Ruben Gallego (woohoo!) introduced HR 871 to the House Committee on Natural Resources. The bill’s title is: To expand the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument, to ensure prompt engagement with the Bears Ears Commission and prompt implementation of the Proclamation establishing the Bears Ears National Monument, and for other purposes.

The bill has 71 co-sponsors (one of which is O’Halleran), which is a really good sign. Not a single one of the sponsors is a Republican, which is a very bad sign. Whether this will go anywhere in the Senate is doubtful, but it’s important to keep up the pressure on this administration to protect our public lands and the legislation establishing national monuments. Although Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments are in Utah, none of Arizona’s national monuments or public lands can be considered safe if the Trump administration is successful in eviscerating those two. We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, you can contact your representatives, R or D, and let them know you want them to support this bill, that our public lands are critically precious, and that no President can undo a monument established using the Antiquities Act (only Congress can do that—unless we lose the ongoing court cases). If you want to keep up to date an all legislation making its way through Congress, just go to congress.gov and search for the bills you are interested in. Again, this one is HR 871.

Legislative Action Alerts

This week, please consider signing in on the Request to Speak system in support of SB1241, HB2292, and HCM2003 and in opposition to HCM2005, HB2201, HB2275, HB2547, HB2557, and SB1188. NOTE: THIS IS NOT AN EASY WEBSITE TO NAVIGATE! I’ve figured it out, but if you need help, let me know or attend one of our RTS Training Events or Office Hours Opportunities.  The next one is Feb. 10.

Here’s the legislative agenda for this week. This is lifted directly from the Sierra Club.

Tuesday, February 5th

House Committee on Natural Resources, Energy, & Water in HHR1 at 2:00 PM

  • HB2464 water infrastructure finance; municipal approval (Shope) increases the threshold for when a city or town must take a question of repayment of Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA) loan repayment to the voters from a population of 50,000 to 150,000. MONITOR.
  • HB2484 irrigation grandfathered right; containerized plants (Griffin) allows groundwater to be used to water plants in containers in active management areas (AMAs), which was previously not permitted by agency rule. The ADWR rule treated containerized agriculture as a non-irrigation use and this provision allows either non-irrigation water or groundwater to be used, if there is an irrigation grandfathered right. MONITOR.
  • HCM2005 national monument designation; opposition (Griffin) asks Congress not to designate the Great Bend of the Gila River as a national monument, as Congressman Grijalva has proposed. The designation is supported by the Gila River Indian Community, the Fort Yuma Quechan Tribe Cultural Committee, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation Cultural Center and Museum, Archaeology Southwest, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, among others. It would bring much needed protection to the cultural resources in the area. That is why we oppose Rep. Griffin’s efforts to prevent the monument and protection of this region. OPPOSE.

Wednesday, February 6th

House Committee on Transportation in HHR3 at 2:00 PM

Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy at 2:00 PM in SHR109

  • SB1241 state parks board; heritage fund (Brophy McGee: Boyer, Carter, et al.) establishes the state parks board heritage fund for local parks, trails, open space, and historic preservation. It does not include actual funding, but would re-establish this important fund that was first established by the voters and repealed under the Jan Brewer administration. SUPPORT.

House Committee on Federal Relations in HHR4 at 2:00 PM

  • HB2547 public lands; management department; committee (Finchem: Allen J, Barto, et al.) establishes a department to manage federal public lands if the governor develops an agreement with the federal government to manage them. The focus is mostly on extractive uses. The state has not done a good job with managing state lands or parks. It is ludicrous to think that it can do better with these lands that belong to all Americans. OPPOSE. 
  • HB2557 public lands; federal government; study (Finchem: Bolick, Griffin, et al.) appropriates $1 million for yet another committee to study public lands, payment in lieu of taxes, and conduct an inventory, among other things. OPPOSE.
  • HCM2003 uranium pollution; remediation (Thorpe) is a message to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator to take immediate action to clean up of uranium mining pollution in Arizona. While this is something we can support, it should really include holding mining interests accountable for paying for the clean up too. SUPPORT

Thursday, February 7th

House Committee on Land and Agriculture in HHR3 at 9:00 AM

  • HB2275 TPT exemption; crop production (Dunn: Cobb, Cook, et al.) excludes from sales tax pretty much everything that is used in industrial agriculture, including fertilizers, pesticides, and a plethora of chemicals. It does not include anything to produce industrial hemp. OPPOSE.

ADP Environmental Caucus Facebook Page

The ADP Environmental Caucus has started a Facebook page for anyone who is interested in following in that way.

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