THE POLLUTION ALL-STARS
For state Senator Jim Buster, environmental regulation is like a midway game named Whack-a-Mole played at the Yuma County Fair. As soon as industry dares to make a buck, whack! Regulators pound it with environmental laws. Buster, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee, intends to change those laws.
During a hearing before his committee, the burly Republican from Yuma rolls his eyes and raps his knuckles on the dais as he waits for Ed Fox, the mild-mannered Yank who heads the state's Department of Environmental Quality, to shut up. Then Buster can rack up a unanimous win for another business-friendly bill and move on. There are so many environmental rules to eviscerate and so little time to eviscerate them.
Jim Buster is the captain of the Pollution All-Stars, a group of state lawmakers waging a proud and multipronged attack on laws and regulations that were enacted to protect a wide array of life forms in Arizona, including Yumans.
Last year, the 41st Arizona Legislature handed businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts ("Business As Usual," May 18, 1994). The 42nd Legislature seems determined to prove that when people refer to the Green Decade, they're talking dollar-bill green.
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Once again, businesses would be the biggest benefactors. But without the legislature's Pollution All-Stars on hand to perpetuate myths and to browbeat people who worry about sustaining resources, business's agenda would be far less ambitious. In years past, it would have been laughed out of the Arizona State Capitol.
Senator Chris Cummiskey, a central Phoenix Democrat, says, "Last year, [business] got the tax breaks, which made them very happy. This year, [business] is going after the regulatory pie, which is basically to do away with anything that will slow their growth or force them to deal with environmental regulation or make sure that they don't contaminate air and water."
There are bills that denounce the federal Endangered Species Act, that impose private-property-rights legislation soundly rejected by Arizona voters four months ago, that raid the Heritage Fund, which was established by voters in 1990 to direct $20 million per year in lottery money to benefit wildlife programs and habitat.
There are bills that amount to political power grabs. One would shift legal representation of the Department of Environmental Quality from the attorney general to the governor; another would allow the governor to remove anyone from any board--including State Parks or Game and Fish--whenever he wants to.
There's even a bill that calls for the state to become a safe haven for production of the coolant Freon, outlawed internationally because of evidence that it depletes the Earth's ozone layer.
The most radical bills would dismantle Title 49, the state's environmental regulatory code. The bills were drafted not by elected officials but by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. Two of the chamber's favorite bills would:
Offer immunity to companies that perform self-audits of their environmental compliance, provided they reveal their indiscretions to DEQ and take steps to correct them. Also, the bill would, in most cases, allow the companies to keep the information secret--out of court, out of newspapers, out of the hands of neighbors and others who need to know about it. Moreover, it imposes a $10,000 penalty on whistle-blowers who might reveal the sacred data. (Senate Bill 1290.)
Eliminate the "citizen suit" provision in the law, which allows a private individual to bring suit against a polluter if DEQ isn't enforcing the law. (House Bill 2196.)
To hear chamber lobbyist Chuck Shipley speak, one might think environmental regulation has brought Arizona industry to its knees. "What happens with Title 49 affects other programs, it affects the economy, it affects jobs, it affects the future of the state," he says.
The Arizona Department of Commerce apparently hasn't gotten the message. In literature it sends to prospects, the department states, "Arizona is so probusiness, companies from other states have been relocating and expanding here in record numbers. . . . As they'll testify, the Arizona business forecast is clear and sunny."
The Arizona economy is considered one of the hottest in the nation, testament that Title 49 has barely been enforced. A 1993 audit by the Arizona auditor general revealed that:
Of 251 drinking-water-enforcement cases in 1992, formal enforcement action was taken just 14 times.
DEQ had not addressed 838 sites known to be contaminated by leaking tanks.
And of 916 hazardous-waste-violation cases between 1988 and 1993, formal enforcement actions were taken in only 55. David Baron, assistant director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest and an expert in environmental law, says DEQ's enforcement is still woeful. DEQ "rarely seeks penalties against polluters. They rarely take polluters to court. They almost never . . . it's almost unheard-of that they would shut anybody down," Baron says.
Jim Lemmon agrees. Lemmon served as DEQ's first hydrologist hired to do groundwater regulation, but he left the department in 1983 "because they chose not to do enforcement." Now an environmental consultant, he continues to work with DEQ, and says, "It's been my opinion over a decade now that their enforcement has been very, very poor."
So why are the Pollution All-Stars intent on taking the gums out of an already toothless agency?
Baron and Lemmon believe the furor over the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws designed to protect the environment has created a backlash aimed at any and all environmental regulation. Just as there's a myth that the Endangered Species Act has decimated rural communities, there's a myth that Arizona's Title 49 is overregulating industry.
The Chamber of Commerce may have written the bills, but lawmakers such as Jim Buster and the Pollution All-Stars have latched on to them with glee, proclaiming that the voters are demanding such legislation.
"There is a backlash to unrealistic regulation," Buster explains. "There is no doubt that there is a reaction to things that have been building up, say, since the Seventies."
Cummiskey doesn't get it. "[His colleagues] keep talking about this electoral mandate that they received during the last election, and I didn't hear anybody--in 14,000 houses, knocking door to door--say, 'Yeah, we think it's good to do away with all environmental oversight.'"
In fact, a 1992 survey by the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University revealed that when people were asked to choose between environmental preservation and economic growth, a four-to-one majority preferred environmental preservation. A large majority believed there is too little government regulation of the environment, and many respondents said they were altering their day-to-day activities to protect the environment. (Perhaps subversive surveys such as this one explain why conservative legislators are trying to slash funding for the Morrison Institute.)
And last month, the Behavior Research Center found that for the third year in a row, almost half of Arizona families reported that one or more members had negative reactions during times of high air pollution.
Few are willing to face the backlash. Raena Honan and Sandy Bahr, lobbyists for the Sierra Club and the Audubon Council, respectively, trudge to the Capitol every day to endure more abuse. Like DEQ's Fox, they're mocked or ignored. Honan--a conservative Republican--gets up at committee hearings, makes her speech about how environmental regulations protect the public, then sits back down to wait for the next bill.
If you're into bashing environmentalists, you'll have to take a number at the state Capitol. For those who care to keep track, here's a run-down of the Pollution All-Stars and just some of their pet projects.
Senator Jim Buster, Republican of Yuma. Office: 542-4139. Chairman, Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee.
Jim Buster's committee is a dream come true for industry lobbyists. It's composed mainly of conservative Republicans and rural Democrats, and it's a guaranteed launching pad for Chamber of Commerce bills.
Buster's admiration for extractive industries--especially the mines--might be explained in part by his financial disclosure statement, which shows he owns stock in Cyprus Minerals.
This session, Buster has joined Mesa Republican Senator Larry Chesley to sponsor one of the chamber's favorites, SB1290, the environmental audit bill. Critics call the bill a "Get Out of Jail Free Card."
Simply put, the bill would allow companies that conduct self-audits, disclose the findings to the Department of Environmental Quality and clean up the mess to escape penalty. DEQ's Fox doesn't mind that. What he does mind is the chamber's favorite provision--one that allows the polluter to keep the audit secret in most cases. That means those affected by the pollution would never know it. And in case they did find out about it, field notes, reports and other information from the audit--data needed to seek remedy under the law--would be unavailable. The media would be unable to review records and report on it.
The bill also called for a $10,000 penalty for whistle-blowers (read: conscientious government or corporate employees worried about the public welfare) who disclose the secrets. Amazingly, the Arizona Newspaper Association's lobbyist did not speak against SB1290. The audit bill is the cornerstone of the probusiness environmental backlash, and all of the heavy lobbyists were there to speak when it came before Buster's committee: Ken Quartermaine of Arizona Rock Products Association; Scott Butler of the Arizona Association of Industries; Jim Bush of--among others--Phelps Dodge; Jim Klinker of the Arizona Farm Bureau; and, of course, Chuck Shipley, vice president for public affairs, Arizona Chamber of Commerce.
But in his testimony, Bush revealed industry's real motivation: to hamper the discovery process in lawsuits brought against polluters and to limit the media's access to damning reports.
His voice shaky with emotion, Bush told Buster's committee, "If you don't think that the press can tear you up, you're wrong." And if that doesn't happen, "Mr. David Baron down in Tucson will bring an action." (Baron, you'll recall, is the environmental expert for the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest.)
Environmental consultant Jim Lemmon wonders, "Why are they [industry] pushing this stuff? There's gotta be a reason, and the reason is they don't want any more of these class-action suits. They don't want any more results like this Hughes Aircraft case. They don't want to be put in a bad corporate image."
A class-action lawsuit brought against Hughes Aircraft in Tucson is a sterling example of why SB1290 is dangerous. And why the Pollution All-Stars want it to pass.
In 1991, Hughes offered a settlement of $84.5 million to 1,620 people who drank water tainted with TCE (trichloroethylene), a suspected cancer-causing solvent dumped at the Hughes site in south Tucson over three decades. Lemmon believes the environmental audit bill would have gotten Hughes off the hook by making crucial documents privileged. In the early Seventies, he says, Hughes hired an engineer who conducted tests and told the company it had a serious groundwater-contamination problem. Hughes "sat on that report. That report was never given to the regulatory agencies. It was only during discovery, during the toxic tort litigations and the wrongful-death claims, that that report came to light," Lemmon says.
Under SB1290, that report would have been kept secret, because at the time of the lawsuit--which wasn't filed until the mid-Eighties--it hadn't been proved that Hughes' internal report revealed a clear danger, Lemmon argues. (The bill gives the court the right to unseal documents attesting to a "clear, present and impending danger.")
If SB1290 had been in effect, Lemmon concludes, Hughes "would have said, 'Yeah, we did it, and we'll clean it up, but tough luck for all you people who died, because you can't use this evidence against us.' And it was that evidence--of their knowledge that there could be a problem--and the failure to act is what I think convinced them" to settle.
For the hearing before Buster's panel, the Chamber of Commerce imported the author of similar legislation passed last year in Colorado. Cynthia Goldman assured the committee that the bill would encourage compliance. (She should know. Her husband, Jonathan Goldman, is a spokesman for Coors Brewing Inc., which was forced to pay about $250,000 in fines after the results of a $1 million self-audit became public. The Coors case is often used as the example of why the legislation was needed in Colorado. Of course, if Colorado had had SB1290 on the books, Coors never would have been fined, and the public never would have known about it.)
Since the Colorado legislature approved the measure last year, Goldman says, she's found six instances in which companies complied with the law by reporting the results of audits to Colorado authorities. None involved substantial pollution.
Randall Weiner, an attorney for the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, opposed Colorado's bill and continues to oppose the law. "We're opposed to any self-evaluation privilege, because it hasn't been proven that that privilege will lead to more environmental compliance," Weiner says. "No other criminal is able to avoid penalties merely by confessing."
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce did not invite attorneys from Oregon to testify before Buster's committee. Oregon has had an environmental audit bill even longer than Colorado. If it had heard Oregon's story, Buster's committee would have learned that the law has had no impact in that state, according to its proponents.
Lynne Perry, a Portland lawyer, has been in charge of surveying Oregon companies to see if the law has had an effect. (A colleague from her firm wrote and lobbied for the law's passage.) In more than a year, it has not encouraged one company to self-audit and report the results, Perry says.
Although the state auditor general believed DEQ to be inadequate in its monitoring and enforcement efforts, Buster believes regulators should lighten up even more. He tells New Times he wants to "create a spirit of cooperation instead of confrontation" between regulators and the regulated.
Still, when SB1290 came before his committee on February 16, Buster was more than willing to play hardball. Buster refused to entertain an amendment drafted by the Attorney General's Office and proposed by Senator Ann Day, a Tucson Republican, to kill the secrecy provision and to reduce the whole thing to a pilot program. (Day later supported the bill, anyway, making the committee vote unanimous.)
When David Ronald, an assistant attorney general, complained that investigators' efforts at discovery would be "incredibly hampered" by the bill, Buster retorted that the AG's Office was most worried about losing its authority to the courts. "The problem is you [would be] out of control," he said, sneering. "That's what you don't like."
Buster went on to tell Ronald and DEQ's Fox that they wrongly viewed industry workers as "evil, corporate people."
As of press time, the Senate was poised to pass an amended version of SB1290. The version sent to the House limits the use of the whistle-blower provision and reduces the penalty to a maximum of $2,500.
Representative Russell "Rusty" Bowers, Republican of Mesa. Office: 542-5874. Chairman, House Environment Committee.
Rusty Bowers is elegant and bony in appearance, an artist by profession. He's inspired wrath among guardians of the Heritage Fund and advocates of environmental protections.
After seeing a newsletter from Arizonans for Wildlife Conservation--which urged its members to form "phone trees" and try to kill "antienvironmental" bills, many of which Bowers had introduced--he dashed off a letter to the newsletter's editor. The letter concludes:
"Yes, there are terrible things we want to do. Protect private property. Call off the enviro-Dobermans from our people. Give back the hunting and fishing to the hunters and fisherfolks who want to keep it healthy and productive too. Its a scary thing leaving the devil you know for one that you can hold accountable at the ballot. But--I'm willing."
He signed the letter, "Yours in the battle."
Bowers agrees there's an environmental backlash, though he calls it "a moving dynamic. There's an expansion of rules. And then there's a reassessment period where people reexamine the rules."
He sees himself as a consensus builder. While the environmentalists will concede that he's more gracious than some Pollution All-Stars, they don't agree that he's in the middle. They abhor most of the bills he's introduced--particularly HB2196.
In its original form, HB2196 dismantled DEQ entirely. But the chamber people and the DEQ people hammered out a compromise, and everyone was happy with the bill, save for one little thing: HB2196 eliminates the citizen-suit provision from Arizona environmental law. Citizen suits allow individuals to bring legal action if DEQ has ignored a problem for more than 60 days. While it allows for the awarding of attorney's fees, it does not allow the citizen to collect damages; it merely compels DEQ to force polluters to comply with the law and to pay penalties to the state.
It's a great thing, DEQ director Ed Fox says, because his agency is not--and probably never will be--financially capable of enforcing all regulations.
The citizen-suit provisions for air and water quality were written into Arizona law in the Eighties, as part of a compromise between environmentalists and business groups. The provisions were put in to appease environmentalists who were ready to launch a referendum that would have made environmental regulations much stricter.
Now the chamber wants the citizen-suit provision out, and David Baron of the Center for Law in the Public Interest is livid about it. "What do we get for being cooperative and making an agreement with these people? We get duplicity," he says.
Bowers wants the provision out because, he tells New Times, it "allows there to be four million DEQ directors running around!"
He's off by 1 million percent. The water section of the law has been invoked a grand total of: four times.
The air section has never been used.
Baron, however, cautions that the low numbers of lawsuits are deceptive, because such suits can also be filed under federal law and because citizen suits are a valuable bargaining chip that make "industries think twice when they violate the law. They know that even if DEQ doesn't do anything, which is more often than not the case, they could still be subject to citizen suits."
Attorney Jeff Bouma is probably the state's leading expert on citizen suits, having brought three of the four Arizona actions. When he testified before Bowers' committee, Bouma spoke of a case settled in 1991, in which a wastewater-treatment plant was polluting one of Arizona's natural wonders, Oak Creek. DEQ hadn't enforced the law, so Bouma pushed. In the end, the pollution stopped, and the polluter--Los Abrigados resort--paid $200,000 to the state general fund, $50,000 for local environmental enhancement and $10,000 for the Great Arizona Cleanup.
And he'll take no fee from Robin LaRue, who has a citizen suit pending. LaRue is a 59-year-old artist from Kingman, and until recently, her pride was her goats, which swept the awards at the last Mohave County Fair--seven first places and one "Grand Champ of Show." But LaRue had to get rid of her goats; she might have to sell her land, too, if she can find a buyer. A wash that runs across her property has been flooded repeatedly with sewage and other run-off from a truck wash and a diner. Bouma says the Blue Beacon Truck Wash and the Petro Stopping Center along I-40 are among the busiest west of the Mississippi River. (Jim Vierrig, attorney for the defendants, declined to comment. However, Vierrig did confirm that during the Eighties, while working for then-attorney general Bob Corbin, he authored Arizona's citizen-suit statute.)
Bouma says of LaRue's lawsuit, "We haven't gone out and done one test by ourselves. . . . [The state's] records hang 'em."
The state has documented the pollution on LaRue's land, according to a DEQ inner-office memo dated January 1994. The memo explains that LaRue has complained for years about "the crud that creeps down the wash each winter from the two effluent discharges." It details findings during numerous visits to the wash. Sometimes the effluent was "very brown," the records show. Once, the main flow revealed "a thick layer of sewage sludge covered with algae."
On October 21, 1993, the state inspector noticed, "In the areas to the side of the main flow there were depressions filled with water and large numbers of brown particles which were suspended and not settled out. The brown particles are the sewage sludge floc particles that have been carried into the wash by the Petro Stopping Center wastewater treatment plant effluent. This is grossly improperly, partially treated sewage which is very high in harmful fecal coliform bacteria and may also carry any number of harmful or deadly viruses."
Although DEQ has tracked the pollution, the state has done nothing to force the truck wash and diner to clean up the land and stop polluting, Bouma alleges. So LaRue and Bouma have taken action to force DEQ to do its job.
After Bouma finished testifying, the committee had no follow-up questions for him. The panel voted to approve HB2196.
Speaking by phone from her home on a recent stormy evening, LaRue explains that the "slimy stuff" was running 30 feet from her home, and that during heavy rains, it had covered most of her 40 acres.
Asked about her view of Bowers, a fellow artist, LaRue says: "How long would this condition last in his backyard? I literally feel that I've been gone to the bathroom on.
"I want to be a small businessperson. I want to live the American dream. And here I am not able to have this business because of this potentially deadly water in my backyard. I'm a private property owner. I have rights, don't I?"
HB2196 squeaked through the House last week, and now moves on to the Senate.
It is not HB2196 alone that has landed Bowers in the Pollution All-Star lineup.
Two days after HB2117 died in a separate committee, Bowers and his committee resurrected a version of the bill, which guts the state Heritage Fund by forcing it to pay for operation and maintenance of properties acquired by the fund. HB2117 was attached to another bill that forces the Game and Fish Department to sell back land acquired with Heritage Fund monies once an endangered species has been "delisted." (Game and Fish officials testified that often, there's more than one species on the land, and further, that the species will likely become endangered again when the land is back in private hands.) The measure was defeated on the House floor, but could reemerge.
Bowers is also the sponsor of HB2274, which eliminates the mandate for an environmental education curriculum in Arizona's public schools and calls for schools that do wish to teach about the environment to use only the most "current scientific data"--whatever that is. It also requires that the curriculum review economic and political implications.
Representative Elaine Richardson, a Tucson Democrat, tried to convince Bowers that he was offering the bane of Nineties conservatives--a new mandate--on schools, but Bowers just laughed.
About a dozen people rose to speak--half for, half against--and Bowers asked nearly all of them whether they had children. Finally, one woman who had traveled from Tucson to speak against the bill pre-empted Bowers by announcing that she was unable to bear children.
Another tearful woman told the committee that she supported the bill because her son was suicidal after his teacher told his class the planet was endangered and wanted to know what the students were going to do to save it.
HB2274 sailed through Bowers' committee. As of press time, the bill was awaiting a vote in the House. Senator Robert "Bob" Chastain, Democrat of Kearny. Office: 542-5685.
After listening to the debate on SB1290, the environmental self-audit bill, and just before voting "aye," Chastain made the following observation: "Thirty or 40 years ago, I think there were a lot of problems with the mines, but I don't think that anymore."
DEQ's Fox vehemently disagrees. "The mines have cleaned up their act because of regulation, but they still have problems," he says, adding that there was major contamination as a result of mining as recently as the late Eighties.
Just last September, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced that Magma Copper Company paid civil penalties--$385,000 to the feds, $240,000 to the state--for violations at three of its Arizona mines.
According to the EPA, the violations occurred in Miami and Superior.
In a press release issued on September 12, 1994, the EPA explained that heavy rains caused a massive discharge of residue that smothered aquatic life in Pinto Creek, near Magma's Pinto Valley operation. Similar spills occurred at Magma's Superior and Copper Cities units.
Speaker of the House Mark Killian, Republican of Mesa. Office: 542-5729.
Killian introduced HCM2005, a memorial that calls upon Congress to place a moratorium on new environmental rules, regulations and policies by the EPA, the departments of interior and agriculture, the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Council on Environmental Quality until Congress has a chance to formulate "long-term solutions to the environmental concerns facing our nation."
As of press time, HCM2005 was awaiting a vote in the House.
Killian also sponsored HB2364, which redirects $2.4 million in Heritage Fund monies to Natural Resource Conservation Districts--sensitive land, usually owned by ranchers and growers, designated by the owners for conservation. The bill's many opponents argue that NRCDs can already apply for grants from the Heritage Fund, and that voters never intended for one group of private businesspeople to automatically benefit in this way. Killian coerced House Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee chairwoman Becky Jordan into hearing the bill, which passed when Killian showed up personally to defend it. Jordan wasn't surprised. She says, "The legislature has hated that fund ever since it was established. And it's an ongoing battle, and I think they see this year as the year to win it."
HB2364 was awaiting a vote in the House at press time.
Again ignoring the voters' wishes, Killian is just one of many lawmakers who have introduced "private property rights" legislation--measures designed to impose the legislation struck down by the voters when they rejected Proposition 300 last November. Proposition 300 called for the state attorney general to initiate an assessment process that would pay landowners whose property uses had been "taken" by regulations.
Environmentalists warn that Proposition 300 and other "takings" bills are really designed to undermine laws such as the Endangered Species Act, which often "take" a person's property by prohibiting uses such as ranching or development.
Governor Fife Symington, a strong proponent of Proposition 300, vowed in his State of the State address to rule by executive order on "takings" cases and to fire state employees who imposed regulations that might constitute "takings." But there's been no action since Symington's pronouncement.
Representative Jean McGrath, Republican of Glendale. Office: 542-4372.
Best known for her sponsorship of bills calling for the continued production of Freon, this freshman lawmaker has caught on quickly to the way business is conducted in the legislature. She quietly introduced a bill that would directly benefit the nursery business, her business. McGrath and her husband are the sole owners of McGrath Growers, a Glendale nursery worth more than $100,000, according to her financial disclosure report. She also collected $850 in contributions from nursery employees.
The bill, HB2233, allows for the collection of seeds and fruit from a new subcategory of highly endangered native plants. McGrath insists the bill would benefit plants, rather than her business, allowing the endangered species to thrive in nurseries.
But both the Audubon Society and Desert Botanical Garden have reservations. A researcher at the botanical garden explains that the plants in this proposed subcategory are "very, very rare. They produce very little seed." She adds, "With no monitoring of how much seed can be collected, you're going to have problems."
McGrath, who specializes in the "petite pink oleander," says she isn't interested in raising the endangered plants herself, but introduced the bill at the request of the nursery association. She successfully shepherded the bill through the House Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee, but has received word that it won't reach the House floor because of priorities. She intends to introduce it again next year.
Representative John Verkamp, Republican of Flagstaff. Office: 542-3300.
The U.S. Forest Service is now in the early stages of reviewing proposals for managing forestland in Arizona and New Mexico. One proposal, known as Alternative E, was drafted by a firm named Applied Ecosystem Management Incorporated.
Applied Ecosystem Management, which is run by former employees of Kaibab Industries, conducts scientific research on behalf of the timber industry. Alternative E is the timber industry's proposal.
(Last December, by the way, Kaibab Industries agreed to pay $300,000 in civil damages as part of a settlement with the Forest Service. Kaibab had wrongly harvested more than 1,200 trees in Kaibab National Forest.)
According to Charlie Babbitt, president of the Maricopa Audubon Council, Alternative E provides for the harvest of 33 percent more timber volume than the nearest alternative.
At the timber industry's request, Verkamp--along with representatives Killian, Bowers and Jeff Groscost--introduced HCM2003, a memorial calling on the Forest Service's southwestern forester to adopt Alternative E. An identical memorial, SCM1002, is sponsored by a majority of the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee in the Senate.
It's not uncommon for Arizona legislators to make recommendations to the feds in the form of memorials. This year, there are five in the House, four in the Senate. Memorials aren't binding by law, and they don't require the signature of the governor. But they send a message to members of Congress and to other federal officials.
It's also not uncommon for legislators to introduce measures at the request of industry representatives. But even the most seasoned public-interest lobbyists were aghast at the blatant pandering that took place on HCM2003.
Charlie Babbitt says, "It was not a considered judgment made by the legislature after a kind of careful review of the alternatives. . . . This was simply a rush to do the bidding of the timber industry."
Verkamp doesn't pretend to be an expert on the Forest Service's ideas for managing forestland in Arizona and New Mexico. He admits he signed on as the House memorial's prime sponsor after being told by logging representatives that Alternative E was the best.
"The way I understand it, the other alternatives would be so restrictive, they would either eliminate logging altogether or would make it so difficult as a practical matter it really couldn't be done."
Who told him that? "The logging people and the proponents of Alternative E," he admits.
Verkamp says he tried to hear all sides of the issue. He invited Alternative E opponents to speak at a hearing of the House Rural and Native Affairs Committee, which he chairs. Babbitt showed up, but says Verkamp didn't want to hear what he had to say. "I've never run into so much hostility in my life," Babbitt says.
Verkamp says Babbitt was ill-prepared, and acknowledges that he interrupted Babbitt at least three times to tell him, "We really don't want to hear a political speech."
He adds, "We really don't want to hear that the logging people have been raping the forests. He [Babbitt] was accusing the Applied Ecosystem people of being paid scientists."
Talk about a cheap shot.
Verkamp says that in addition to the representatives of Applied Ecosystem Management, he invited representatives from the Northern Arizona University School of Forestry to testify on Alternative E; supposedly, they support the memorials.
The NAU folks were snowed in and didn't make it to Phoenix, but one of them, Dr. Wally Covington, a professor of ecology at the School of Forestry, tells New Times, "Had I gone down there, I wouldn't have testified in favor of Alternative E."
Instead, he says, he would have discussed basic methods of ecosystem restoration. He's not familiar with the other alternatives, he says, adding, "I'm guilty of the same thing the state legislators are."
SCM1002 was approved by the Senate, and moved on to the House last month. As of press time, HCM2003 was up for consideration in the House.
Governor Fife Symington, Republican. Office: 542-4331.
As of press time, none of the environmental backlash bills had reached Symington's desk. Many aren't sure what he'll do.
Except for his calls during his State of the State address for putting people before endangered species and his threat to fire any state employees found trampling on private property rights, Symington has been noticeably absent during the assault on environmental laws.
The question "Where's Fife on the environmental legislation?" produces myriad responses:
From DEQ's Ed Fox: "With me. His statement to me, which I have conveyed to the business community and others, is that, 'I support my director.'" Judging by the treatment Fox is getting from the legislature, Symington is not making the statement very loudly. House Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee chair Becky Jordan: "Leading the parade is where, I'd guess, or at least setting the tone."
Representative Susan Gerard, a Phoenix Republican: "He waits to see what will pass and then he takes credit for it."
Senator Chris Cummiskey: "In terms of the environmental stuff, he's been out to lunch for the vast majority of the four and a half years.
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