Sustainability: Legislative Environmental Report Card

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The Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club has released an environmental report card on the state legislature. The Sierra Club also graded the governor. Sandy Bahr, chapter director of Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, will tell us about the report card.

Ted Simons: Tonight's focus on sustainability looks at an environmental report card for the governor and the legislature, courtesy of the Arizona chapter of the Sierra club. Sandy Bahr is the director of the Sierra club's Grand Canyon chapter. She joins us now. Good to see you again.

Sandy Bahr: It's great to see you.

Ted Simons: An environmental report card, what does that exactly look at? Does it look at what's being done, what's not being done or both?

Sandy Bahr: Well, it mostly looks at the bills that they voted on. What we try to do is evaluate legislators and the governor on the same bills. So we are not bringing subjectivity into it too much. It is how did you vote? Did you vote yes or no on a bill that was positive for the environment? Did you vote yes or no on a bill that was bad for the environment?

Ted Simons: And we had all republicans in the house with failing grades. All but three or four republicans in the Senate with failing grades. Any democrats with failing grades?

Sandy Bahr: No democrats with failing grades. A couple with low grades. It is one of the really disturbing trends we've seen in, you know, the last several years is that environmental protection has started to become partisan, when it shouldn't be. And, so, the republican caucus down at the legislature really has been voting against environmental protection. This session they passed bills to hinder wolf recovery. They passed bills that would have allowed illegal bulldozing in wilderness areas. They -- passed bills to make it more difficult to do citizen initiatives. So, there are a lot of really awful bills that they moved forward, and to be honest with you, very little that will be helpful from an environmental perspective.

Ted Simons: In the past, was it always this partisan?

Sandy Bahr: No, no. I've been to the -- for about 20 years now, and it was not. There was always a core group of republicans who were working for conservation, and who got A's on our report card. And so that's why it's -- it's disturbing that it is this way. We are hoping to see that shift back to where there really is bipartisan support for it. Clean air should not be a partisan issue. Protecting wildlife shouldn't be partisan. Making sure that people save money on utility bills, that shouldn't be partisan.

Ted Simons: The governor did not get a failing grade, but a C plus. Why?

Sandy Bahr: She stepped up and vetoed three terrible bills. We gave her credit for that. She vetoed two bills that were aimed at making it more difficult for Mexican gray wolves to recover, and she recognized that there were already mechanisms for addressing issues that livestock interests have relative to wolf recovery. She recognized there were constitutional issues, too, because we're talking about the federal endangered species act and the wolf is a listed species, and then she also vetoed the bill that would have allowed for taking any equipment in to protected areas under the guise of an emergency. Again, she said, look, there is already a way to deal with these issues, you know. I think basically saying these were over the top, anti-federal government, anti-environmental protection measures. You know, you've gone too far.

Ted Simons: There was funding found for state parks, correct?

Sandy Bahr: Yeah, a little bill to promote a check off on a state income tax for state parks. It's not huge, but it is something. And the first year in a while where we saw a bill specifically for parks that was positive. So, we welcomed that and she also signed that.

Ted Simons: You mentioned clean energy and energy efficiency programs and such. Most of us, we drive around, if you live anywhere near an ASU campus, you see nothing but these solar panels all over the place, and you see solar farms and this sort --. It seems like the state is taking some sort of action in that direction. Is the legislature simply not addressing clean energy like you would like to see? Solar energy in particular? Are we missing something here? What's going on?

Sandy Bahr: First of all, a lot of the energy rules are adopted by the Arizona corporation commission. Our renewable energy standard --

Ted Simons: Sure --
Sandy Bahr: And our energy efficiency standard adopted under previous commissions, and so that's why you see a lot of what you see. But what the legislature is doing is at the city level, we're also seeing some positive measures. Cities are stepping up to adopt energy efficient building codes. So, when homes are built, they're more efficient and you use a lot less electricity. More comfortable. What's not to like? Well, certain interests, including home builders of central Arizona don't like that cities are doing that. They come to the legislature and try to get the legislature to remove the authority of cities, counties, local government to make those kinds of policies. And, so, instead of adopting policies to further efficiency, we were fighting all session to keep them from undermining it.

Ted Simons: We have about seconds left. How many bills were changed this session to address your concerns?

Sandy Bahr: Well, there were probably four or five bills that were changed, and there were some that passed out of one house, but did not advance when they went to the other house. Partly because of environmental concerns. You know, it is not that there aren't a lot of people who care about environmental protection at the legislature. Unfortunately, they're not the loudest voices and they can't always get a majority vote.

Ted Simons: Well, it is an interesting report card. Good information. Good to have you here. Thank you for joining us.

Sandy Bahr: Thank you.

Sandy Bahr:Chapter Director, Sierra Club - Grand Canyon Chapter;

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