Arizona reached some unsettling milestones recently.
The state just passed into 16 years of drought. Last year we witnessed the deadliest wildfire in Arizona history, and also produced the hottest summer on record for the city of Phoenix.
Science clearly links carbon pollution to extreme weather events like drought, wildfires and increased temperatures. And beyond extreme weather, air pollution also worsens health problems such as childhood asthma attacks. Doing nothing to curb carbon pollution from the largest sources — coal-fired power plants — would be irresponsible to future generations.
Right now, there are no federal limits on the millions of tons of carbon pollution emitted by old coal-burning facilities — none.
Under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, these limits may finally be set.
Unfortunately, some members of the Arizona Legislature appear eager to allow coal plants to continue polluting without any regulation on carbon. Resolutions like SR1003 seek to nullify all actions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) within state borders. This would include using the Clean Air Act — a staple environmental law — to curb carbon pollution before it becomes too late, too severe and too expensive to act.
Attempts to nullify all EPA actions in Arizona just don’t make sense. Common-sense regulations to keep our air clean and our water safe to drink should be supported by all of Arizona’s political leaders.
Just like we regulate other pollutants such as arsenic, mercury and lead, the EPA needs to place limits on the amount of carbon being emitted into the atmosphere.
Legally, on the specific issue of carbon pollution, the Supreme Court has held up the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act on two separate occasions.
With the consequences of global warming becoming clearer, our elected officials should be moved to act. So why are we seeing such an effort to keep Arizona locked into a polluting, fossil-fuel economy?
As it turns out, SR1003 and many like it, such as SCR1022, mirror national template legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — a secretive network of big polluters pushing against any action on climate in state houses across the country.
Following the approval of two model resolutions opposing EPA efforts to limit carbon pollution by ALEC in January this year, over 20 bills popped up in state legislatures, including the resolutions in Arizona. These measures all looked striking similar, some even with the identical language from one state to the next.
We shouldn’t be allowing the nation’s largest fossil fuel companies to determine Arizona’s climate policies. Many Arizonans agree that acting to stave off the worst impacts of climate change while fostering a clean energy economy is the right approach for our state.
By placing limits on carbon pollution, Arizona will naturally turn toward our greatest energy resource — the sun. Arizona’s solar energy sector has already created more than 8,500 jobs. Nationally, that employment figure is second only to California. If solar continues to be a priority energy source over the polluting fossil fuels of the past, thousands more jobs will be created in the state while we reduce our impact on global warming.
My grandfather was one of the youngest members of the “Greatest Generation,” serving in the Navy in World War II. I believe their spirit, one of making the United States and the world a better place for our children, lives on with our generation — whose greatest obligation, challenge and opportunity lies in leaving this world healthier and cleaner than the one we inherited.
Let’s hope our current leaders can feel the same way.
— Bret Fanshaw is the state advocate with Environment Arizona, a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working for clean air, clean water and open space.