by Jim Nintzel
The last time we asked readers to urge Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a bill, it actually worked: Brewer vetoed HB 2757, which would have allowed electronic billboards along Arizona’s highways.
So we’re once again asking you to reach for your telephone to give Brewer a call and ask her to veto HB 2199, otherwise known as the Polluter Protection Act.
Supporters of the bill—which include all of the Republican lawmakers in our neck of the woods—say the legislation will create an “environmental audit privilege” that will just encourage companies to clean up any toxic messes that they discover in the course of doing business.
But opponents of the legislation—such as the Sierra Club and most of our Democratic lawmakers—argue that it lets polluters off the hook if they discover they’ve been violating environmental regulations, as long as they report the problem to the government. Those reports are hidden behind a veil of secrecy and can’t be used in civil lawsuits if the state or other injured parties decide to sue over violations of the law, with all sorts of restrictions on how the information could be used in future lawsuits, including limits on who could testify—which would go a long way to silencing whistleblowers.
You don't have to be Erin Brockovich to realize that the new law creates an incentive for businesses to ignore the environmental regulations that keep poisons out of Arizona’s air and water. If a company knows that it hide wrongdoing in legal web of secrecy and say it’s sorry after committing violations, it’s gonna be a lot easier for bad actors to commit bad deeds. And that is bad news for companies that do play by the rules, because their competitors will be the ones cutting corners to drive them out of business.
Call Gov. Brewer at 1-800-253-0883 and tell her to veto HB 2199. Arizona doesn’t need a Polluter Protection Act.