It’s no surprise that climate-related legislation isn’t a priority at the Arizona State Legislature. The GOP-led body has historically favored a limited approach to environmental regulations and even went out of its way in 2015 to pass a law preventing cities from passing their own plastic bag bans.
Out of 275 bills passed during this legislative session, only one directly relates to climate change policy.
The bi-partisan bill was signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey earlier this year and paves the way for new climate-friendlier refrigerants. It was sponsored by Republican Senator Gray and was endorsed by both environmental groups and the business community.
“Climate change legislation is just not the priority”
“We are in trouble,” said Democrat Senator Victoria Steele, who has tried unsuccessfully for several years to pass bills related to electric vehicles, land preservation and water aquifer restrictions. “Climate legislation is just not the priority for the majority powers.”
The Republican Party controls both the State House and Senate and typically rebuffs Democrat attempts to pass climate legislation. Although Republican Governor Doug Ducey has made water conservation a key talking point in recent months, he has not proposed specific legislation to address climate change.
“The legislature’s priorities are all messed up,” said Sandy Bahr, Director of the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter. “They continue to talk about what we need to do on water. They do nothing about climate change and in fact, propose things to make it worse.”
Two climate bills supported by environmental organizations that passed the Senate with bi-partisan support died in the House.
One bill, sponsored by Sen. Steele, would have created a framework for how to spend $76 million of new federal infrastructure money earmarked for electric vehicle charging stations.
However, the House did not give the bill a committee hearing. The Arizona Department of Transportation is taking over the project and hired AECOM Consultants to assist with the plan.
Speaker Bowers and Rep. Griffin won’t provide interviews
Two key Republican leaders in the House declined to answer questions to 12 News about the lack of climate legislation and their views on climate change science in general. 12 News sent interview requests to House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Representative Gail Griffin, Chair of Natural Resources, Energy and Water.
Climate change continues to be one of the most divisive issues in American politics, despite an overwhelming body of evidence from the science community that concludes human-caused climate change is warming the planet to unsustainable levels.
According to NASA, “97% or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. The effects of human-caused global warming are happening now… and will worsen in the decades to come.”
“You gotta listen to the other side”
Ironically, Senator Gray, who passed the bill on refrigerants, is outspoken in his opposition to climate change science. Gray engaged in a back-and-forth discussion with Bahr during a March hearing held by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Energy and Water.
Bahr said Arizona’s drought, extreme heat and wildfires are linked to “the climate crisis.”
Gray responded by saying he supports the work of climate change skeptic Dr. Patrick Moore.
Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, left the movement years ago and espouses a theory that is popular among many Republicans that states CO2 emissions currently being pumped into the atmosphere will not impact the climate for hundreds of years.
“You gotta listen to the other side,” Gray said during the hearing. “When we’re trying to say it’s all about climate change, really what it comes down to is we need to manage our forests.”
“We look at the preponderance of the science and Dr. Moore is an outlier,” Bahr said. “The preponderance of the science indicates we have a changing climate, we are contributing to it, and we need to do something now so we don’t saddle our kids and our grandkids with all the issues.”
Gray responded by saying there are other scientists who support Moore’s theories.
“(Moore’s) not an outlier. He just happens not to be on the politically correct side,” Gray said.
According to NASA, researchers like Moore are ignoring evidence.
“It is undeniable that human activities have warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land and that widespread rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere have occurred,” states NASA.
“We need new legislators”
Bahr tells 12 News Senator Steele’s efforts to pass bipartisan climate legislation over the years are an example of the legislature’s unwillingness to address climate change.
“Last year she had the electric vehicle bills that were very similar and she got feedback from Republican Senators and she worked with them on the bills. She compromised,” Bahr said. “Those three bills went forward and hit a brick wall in the House.”
“I think really, in the end, the lesson, especially on climate, but also on water and clean energy, is we need different legislators. We need people who really understand that we have to do things differently, that business as usual when it comes to energy is just digging a deeper hole for us,” Bahr said.
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