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.