by Jim Nintzel
Our Southern Arizona Republican lawmakers—Sens. Frank Antenori, Al Melvin and Gail Griffin and Reps. David Gowan, Ted Vogt, Vic Williams, Terri Proud, David Stevens and Peggy Judd—all got failing grades on this year's Sierra Club report card. (If you read this week's cover story on the session, this is probably not news to you.)
You can check out the details here. The press release from Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr:
Today, the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter released its annual report card on the Arizona Legislature. While the report card contained no surprises, it was notable for just how hostile the 50th Arizona Legislature was to conservation.
“The Arizona Legislature demonstrated quite clearly this session that it was a Polluter’s Best Friend and no friend to conservation,” said Sandy Bahr, Chapter Director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “From giving polluters a shield of secrecy for environmental law violations to providing more exemptions to the mining industry, the biggest polluters in the state, a majority of legislators voted to weaken protections for Arizona’s environment.”
The mining industry, which releases more toxics than any other industry in our state, fared well this session as the Legislature passed additional exemptions from environmental protections specific to this industry. Freeport-McMoRan received permission to be a water broker, and all mining companies got an exemption from the law that protects Arizona’s groundwater, plus will likely benefit from the “Polluter Protection Act” (HB2199), which was advanced by lobbyists for both Freeport and the Arizona Mining Association.
The “Polluter Protection Act” establishes an environmental audit privilege that allows companies to do audits and keep them a secret; any information about environmental law violations found as part of an audit cannot be used in an enforcement action. This concept has been around in various iterations for about 20 years and was first pushed in Arizona in the mid 1990s, at which time it failed. The bill was back this year. It passed and was signed into law by Governor Brewer.
“Conservation did not become one of the five ‘Cs’ at the Arizona Legislature in this Centennial year, nor was there much consideration for one of the current ‘Cs‘ – climate – unless you count the efforts to eliminate sustainability programs, undermine energy efficiency, and weaken renewable energy efforts,” said Bahr. “Although some of those efforts failed, the Legislature sent a clear message that it does not support a strong renewable-energy-based economy nor common sense programs to save people money on their electric bills through energy efficiency.”
Legislators also sent numerous messages that demonstrate that they are out of step with most Arizonans. A poll released by Colorado College earlier this year found that 90 percent of Arizona voters agreed with this statement: “Our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are an essential part of Arizona’s economy.” Despite this significant and strong support for public lands in Arizona, a majority of legislators passed a bill to demand that federal public lands be turned over to the state so the state can proceed with selling them off. This measure was vetoed by the Governor, but the Legislature also referred to the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment on “state sovereignty” that also seeks control of federal public lands.
It was again a highly partisan session, which shows in this year’s grades. Most anti-environmental bills passed along party lines. With a super-majority in both houses of the Legislature, the Republicans used the advantage to pass a plethora of bad bills, including ones that have failed in many previous sessions.
This year, 39 House members and 21 senators received failing grades and were completely in the negative. On a positive note, three representatives earned an “A+,” which means they voted 100 percent pro-environment and also did not miss a vote on the key bills we scored. Seven senators and 11 House members received an “A.” Governor Brewer again earned an “F.”
Senators and House members were graded using 18 votes, but not on the exact same set of bills. Governor Jan Brewer was graded on ten bills. Everyone was graded on a curve, although no curve could help with this assault on environmental protection.