Some thoughts on HB 2617 from Robert Wick, one of the owners of Wick Communications, the Tucson Weekly's parent company:
This is a very hard time to find environmental protection in Arizona, between a Legislature that cares little about it, and Gov. Jan Brewer, who has been signing almost anything that hits her desk that caters to what she perceives as her electorate.
She recently protected the rights of Arizona citizens from being regulated for greenhouse gas emissions, as if this were the right to bear arms. It seems clear to those of us in the endangered political center of either party that you protect the environment to protect the population that, for the most part, came to Arizona because of the environment. Economic growth depends on that tenet.
We fear that she is about to sign another bill that is a blatant environmental attack on water quality, HB 2617, the mining amendment bill. The bill will prohibit Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) from regulating mines any more stringently than the federal government. This would halt future programs that control the first mine pollutants that hit drinking water before others—like sulfate regulation in Green Valley. Sound good? It would set up an industry controlled committee to "advise" state agencies on how to implement mining environmental regulations. HB 2617 will allegedly "streamline" permitting of new mining so that what few ADEQ employees are left will feel the heat of cigar smoking industry lobbyists.
It’s pretty hard to see where it saves jobs. Copper is certainly a necessary mineral, but mining employment, to date, has depended on the price of copper, efficiency of production, and technology used to get metals desired out of the ground. Copper employment in Arizona provides a tiny percentage of our jobs and tax-base statewide, and it has left piles of pollution that poison Arizona’s water, along with pits and shafts.
Definitely mining is important! It is just that in 2050, this state is projected to have more than 15 million people, and the demand for clean water and air will be eminent.
We plead with the governor to step back and think about her citizens and the water they drink and the air that they breathe. Veto HB 2617, and work to pass legislation that protects the environment and reflects the wishes of all of us in this state.