The Arizona Chapter of the Sierra Club released its 21st annual Environmental Report Card for the state Legislature and governor, concluding that the two are "moving Arizona backwards, one bill at a time." The club gave all but one Republican legislator an F, and Governor Doug Ducey a D.
At a press conference to announce the results, Chapter Director Sandy Bahr explained that "the report card gives a good overall picture of what the Arizona legislature is and is not doing for the environment. And the overall picture is not good."
The report card graded legislators and the governor by assigning a point-value to specific bills, and then tallying the total. "Senators were graded using eight bills, six memorials, and two referenda. House members were graded using ten bills, six memorial, and two referenda," the report explains.
"There was tough competition for the worst legislator," Bahr said with a smile.
Representative Lela Alston, who received an A+ from the group and who was also present at the press conference, called this legislative session "horrible" and "unfortunate." She said she was surprised that so many moderates "have gone to the dark side."
She added, "I am dumbfounded that these people really thought they were representing their constituents."
Both Alston and Bahr agreed the theme of this legislative session seemed to be removing decision-making capabilities from local municipalities. "They trashed local ordinances," Bahr said, citing SB 1241, which prohibits cities from banning plastic bags or other auxiliary containers, as well as energy benchmarking efforts. The bill passed in the House 37-23 and the Senate 19-11 before being signed into law by the Governor.
Alston called the mindset of her republican colleagues ironic: "They say we're not going to let the president and federal government tell us anything; however, we are going to tell local governments and elected officials how to do their jobs."
When asked why the state passes bills the club deems bad for the environment, Bahr was quick to answer: "I think the reason the Legislature is so bad on environmental protection is that they've bought into a narrative that's just not accurate--that protecting the environment is bad for business."
She says the opposite is true: "You need clean air and water for a good economy, for example."
Was there any good news? The "one nominally positive" thing the Legislature and governor did was pass SB 1007, Bahr said. The bill authorizes the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to adopt a state plan for carbon-dioxide emissions that complies with the Clean Air Act. "While it is a plus to make sure the state has this authority, legislators did it primarily to keep the Environmental Protection Agency from developing Arizona's plan for us. [And] ironically, at the same time, legislators passed a memorial to oppose the Clean Power Plan," the report states.
"What continues to be appalling, beyond the fact that they're passing these negative bills, is that they're not addressing the key issues the state really faces like climate change and [threats to our] national parks," Bahr said. "When I say they're taking the state backwards, they really are. They're living in another century."
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