Monday, June 30, 2008

Leaders, Giffords work solar development strategy

Map of solar resources with best areas in red, including all of Arizona

TUCSON -- I was invited and participated today in an important strategy session for decision makers on how to boost the solar power industry across Arizona. US Rep Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ8) led the meeting at UA, and I was there as a Tucson Planning Commissioner.

For years, my family and I have generated solar power at our southside home in LD29. I am very supportive of increased solar power development and use to help our economy, security and environment.

Congresswoman Giffords called the Arizona Solar Energy Development Conference primarily for governmental policy makers and key staff. Energy experts from across the US and other nations discussed ways to go solar. It was an impressive group dealing with a hot and critical issue.

There were very interesting discussions and questions on incentives, net metering, energy economics, and the pros and cons of rooftop solar in cities vs. giant solar power plants out in the desert. Ultimately, we likely need both, and proper siting of solar plants will be essential.

It's exciting and encouraging to be a part of so much talented leadership interest in solar power development. Yes, we can!

UPDATE, 7/9: New news on big solar projects planned for BLM public lands.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Patterson for State Rep endorsed by AZ educators

AZ Education Association backs Patterson for AZ House

TUCSON -- I'm very honored to announce that today I won the endorsement of the Arizona Education Association in my district 29 State House campaign.

Today's announcement is our second big endorsement from AZ labor in two weeks.

I have always been very strong on public education, and will continue to be in the Legislature. In the State House, I will build bridges for more investment in Arizona public schools, which will benefit our economy and quality of life.

"I am pleased to inform you that the AEA Fund for Public Education, the political action committee of the Arizona Education Association, has approved you as a recommended candidate for the Arizona Legislature in the September Primary Election," John Wright, AEA President, told me today. "Your recommendation is based on your positions supporting quality public education... Thank you for supporting public schools and the employees who work in them."

AEA is a wise and effective organization for teachers and school employees, and I appreciate they recognized I am the best qualified candidate in LD29 with a proven record of leadership.

With more than 34,000 members, the Arizona Education Association is the largest professional organization in Arizona. AEA was formed more than a century ago, in 1892, when a group of Arizona educators banded together to protest the use of 14-year-old textbooks. Since then AEA continues to take the lead in advocating for support of Arizona's public schools, improving the quality of public education through positive change, and improving the professional lives of teachers and school staff members.

AEA members are teachers, community college professors, counselors, speech pathologists, bus drivers, secretaries, retired educators and student teachers and they belong to more than 150 local affiliates across Arizona.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Monsoon magic cools and wets southern Arizona

Heavy monsoon rain and hail over town of Summerhaven, Mt. Lemmon, 3:30pm today DRP photo

TUCSON -- The monsoon season started for real today with nice rain falling right now.

The summer rains are little early this year, which is great considering the vicious heat wave we've been having. Monsoon storms in the Sonoran Desert and Sky Islands around Tucson usually start around July 3.

Storms building over the Santa Catalina Range, 2:40pm today DRP photo

Thank you, Mother Nature!

Supremes right to uphold 2nd amendment on guns

Responsible gun ownership rights are a core American value

TUCSON -- I agree with today's decision by the US Supreme Court in Washington to uphold the US Constitution's second amendment right 'to keep and bear arms'.

Sen. Barack Obama is also in agreement that the second amendment is 'an individual right', and nearly 70% of Americans agree the second amendment gives individuals the right to own guns. The right to bear arms responsibly is a core American value, hardly on the fringes.

The second amendment is not just about hunting or militias, it's about our individual freedoms.

America's founders knew that the right to bear arms was important to protecting our democracy. They wisely understood that a nation where only the government could own guns was not in the best interest of freedom.

I am concerned about gun violence, and I support reasonable gun laws to try to keep guns away from dangerous criminals, just as I support the right of law abiding Americans to own guns to protect their families.

If a criminal is threatening you at your home with deadly force, you don't have time to call 911 and wait for the police to arrive, you either have the ability to strongly protect yourself and family, or you are dead.

The DC handgun ban was unconstitutionally over the top, blocking everyone from owning a handgun for any reason, and the high court was right to knock it down.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

US House halts Grand Canyon uranium mining

The Bush/Cheney Forest Service has been too permissive on uranium mining near Grand Canyon

FLAGSTAFF -- Today, the US House Natural Resources Committee in Washington adopted a resolution to require the Secretary of Interior to withdraw public lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon National Park from uranium mining activities.

The resolution was introduced by Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ7), Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. Instead of voting to protect the Grand Canyon, GOP members of the committee walked out before the vote.

The resolution now requires action from the Secretary.

“We have a responsibility to defend the Grand Canyon,” stated Rep Grijalva. “Given the importance of the resolution, the Republican leadership decision to leave the committee instead of upholding their duty to side with one of the country’s greatest treasures was petulant and childish.”

Uranium mining is one of the unavoidable bad effects of nuclear power. John McCain's ideas of heaping billions in taxpayer subsidies on nukes would increase risky uranium mining.

Democracy attacked by hackers on campaign site

Vote Patterson in the LD29 primary July 31-Sept 2

UPDATE: Patterson for State Rep campaign site is now back up.

TUCSON -- Our campaign website was attacked by hackers overnight.

It seems someone may be worried we are running a popular leading campaign and winning broad support, and has attacked us in this cowardly way.

This dirty attack will only strengthen our resolve to win this race for the common good. We're in to win, to solve problems, help people and build bridges for change.

Hacking our site is an illegal assault on free speech and democracy, making it impossible for voters to get detailed information on our positive clean campaign.

We call on all candidates in the LD29 race to immediately denounce the hacking of our campaign site.

We are working to fully restore our site and improve security, and will continue to offer campaign coverage here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

AZ off-road & law enforcement bill passes Senate

Arizona Rangers gain support for dealing with reckless off-roading and damage to land, wildlife and waters

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Senate has finally passed an important bill I and others have been working on for over a year. The bill now goes to the Governor for her signature to become state law.

The compromise off-road vehicle bill is a long-overdue step in the right direction for conservation, law enforcement, safety, habitat restoration and management of more responsible off-road vehicle use across Arizona.

I'm proud to have worked collaboratively across the aisle to help pass this important bi-partisan legislation.

Related news: SW land uses clash with ORVs

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bush Interior censors report on wildlife and politics

Bush and his Interior Secretary Kempthorne keep up assault on nature and open gov't

WASHINGTON -- A large portion of an Interior Office of Inspector General evaluation of federal wildlife programs has been blacked out prior to publication, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Even data tables have been excised from a report on Endangered Species Act implementation, with cutouts so extensive that the core section of the report is virtually unreadable.


Forest fire helps, but risky wasteful feds still fight

Failed US 'Smokey Bear' fire suppression policies risk lives, harm forest health and drain limited agency budgets

MT. LEMMON AZ -- To escape the blazingly hot city, my family and I spent yesterday at the top of the great Santa Catalina Range, just north of Tucson. It was very nice.

In the five years since the Aspen fire, I've been watching the ecological recovery of this Arizona Sky Island forest, and it is impressive. The aspen trees, which in many places were badly choked off by encroaching small pines caused by fire suppression, are coming back and many are now quite big. Aspens are very pretty, and great wildlife habitat.

Western forests need fire
for forest health, and you can clearly see this on Mt. Lemmon. Without a doubt, the parts of the Santa Catalinas that burned in 2003 are now much stronger ecologically.

On Mt. Lemmon, the small town of Summerhaven is being rebuilt, but sadly, there are still many building owners who still have not removed vegetation to create 'defensible space' around their places to protect from fire. This failure is why so many structures burned down in 2003, and why it'll happen again unless they change their ways. Firefighters should not be put at risk due to irresponsible private property owners who refuse to respect or prepare for fire.

Lightning started two natural fires yesterday in the remote Rincon Mountains east of the city, but the Forest Service, still mostly stuck in the Smokey Bear myth, is unwisely rushing to try to put them out. A stupid waste. Federal fire suppression efforts are the primary cause of forest fuels buildup that causes the huge mega-fires we are now seeing.

Every fire season, environmentally uneducated reporters simply yell 'fire!, fire!' and mostly just repeat after agency fire bosses -- who have a direct economic interest in continuing failed fire suppression policies -- instead of giving people the facts about the critical importance of natural fire to forest health. This misinforms the general public.

Firefighters die, and millions are wasted as agencies drain their budgets every year trying to suppress fires. I was formerly a BLM firefighter, and any experienced wildlands firefighter knows that fires largely calm down or go out when nature decides -- when the wind dies, when it rains or the humidity goes up. The feds must get smarter with wildlands fire, and stop risking lives, dumping toxic chemical retardants, and throwing away millions of dollars in on-going pursuit of the wasteful, outdated, misguided and expensive fire-industrial complex.

UPDATE, 2pm: The Forest Service has decided to let one of the Rincon fires burn, at least for now -- a good move -- while still trying to put out the other one. Perhaps they read this post this AM and decided to follow some of my advice.

from AP: 'Coronado National Forest spokesman Randall Smith says the 580-acre Cumero fire and the 160-acre Distillery fire are burning calmly and are acting like prescribed fires. The lightning-caused blazes are not threatening any homes.

Smith said Monday that crews hope to fully contain the Cumero fire in the next couple of days, but will allow the Distillery fire to burn up to several thousand acres as it's in very rugged terrain. About 130 firefighters are on the two blazes.'

Friday, June 20, 2008

McCain protested in AZ for serving big oil lobby

Arizonans take on McCain's bad energy ideas DRP photo

TUCSON -- I joined a spirited crowd late this hot afternoon protesting at Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) downtown office.

McCain's dirty energy politics were the focus of Arizonans' challenge of their Senator. Many Arizonans passing by signaled their support for the protest.

Despite record profits for big oil, McCain has offered them $3.8B in tax cuts. In 2007, McCain was the only Senator to miss a vote on the energy bill repealing taxpayer subsidies for big oil.

McCain opposed halting tax breaks for wealthy big oil & gas corporations. He also voted against a temporary windfall profits assessment on big oil, and using the funds to offer tax credits to working families suffering from high fuel and energy prices.

Bush/Cheney and McCain's push to stop protection of America's fragile and scenic coastlines, and start drilling for oil, is reckless and will not reduce fuel prices.

On energy, a huge issue that affects us all, McCain really is more of the same.

Pastor, Grijalva vote no on fed surveillance bill

WASHINGTON -- US Reps Ed Pastor and Raul Grijalva were the only members of the Arizona delegation to vote against the new FISA federal spying bill.

Thank you, Congressmen!

It's a sad day for the Bill of Rights that this bill passed.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Napolitano should veto unneeded abortion bills

Rep Bob Stump (R-D9-Peoria) fights family planning

PHOENIX -- The out of touch Arizona Legislature is at it again. While the Grand Canyon State heads toward shutdown as critical budget problems are not being solved, the GOP leadership prioritizes pushing unneeded and unwise abortion bills, which Gov. Napolitano should veto.

As a family man with a wife, daughter and sister, I favor holistic family planning as an alternative to reduce abortions, as do most people. Strong family planning programs prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions, but too many people in Arizona don't have good access to these essential options.

It's simply unacceptable that many anti-choice lawmakers fight both proper family planning and any abortion rights, instead insisting on failed 'abstinence only' programs. This is a fringe position that ignores reality and the views and values of most people.

I cannot support heavy-handed political meddling on tough personal medical issues that should be between women and their doctors and nurses.

One of our State Reps in district 29, Linda Lopez, voted against bad bill SB 1048. LD29's other Rep, Tom Prezelski, did not vote.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

City Council right to keep bus fares at current level

Get on the bus to save money and help the environment

TUCSON -- Last night, the City Council (except Mayor Bob Walkup) actually listened to citizens by voting to not increase San Tran bus fares.

Just two years ago voters approved the RTA sales tax increase, which was supposed to include money for transit. The RTA is collecting more money than it projected, so where are the funds to fully support Sun Tran?

People need a break during these tough economic times, and keeping fares where they are now is the right thing to do.

Grijalva, Congress investigate national forest fees

Arizonans challenge unfair and unpopular Mt. Lemmon fees

TUCSON -- US Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ7), my Congressman, chaired an important hearing today on Capitol Hill about Forest Service and BLM fees for public lands access.

Read Mr. Grijalva's opening statement.

Here is the written testimony I submitted yesterday to Congress:

Hon. Chairman US Rep Raul M. Grijalva
US House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands
Washington DC

Chairman Grijalva and other Hon. members -- My family and I appreciate you investigating fees for use of national forests and BLM public lands. We frequently visit our scenic public lands for low-impact recreation in Arizona, across the Southwest and US.

In Tucson, the administration and Coronado National Forest has abused its executive privilege by designating long and wide so-called 'High Impact Recreation Areas' (HIRA) across most of the accessible places in the Santa Catalina Range. While we understand the Forest Service desire and need arguments for fees, especially at highly developed sites, we are very disturbed that the Forest Service, by pushing the HIRA, is violating the letter, spirit and intent of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) of 2004.

On the Catalinas (aka Mt. Lemmon or Frog Mountain), despite the clear prohibitions set forth by Congress in FLREA, the Forest Service has dramatically expanded fee areas since 2004 and is using the HIRA, to charge for roadside parking and simple access of totally undeveloped public lands with no 'improvements'. The Forest Service expanded fees in Tucson with no public notice or advisory committee review, the agency admitted in federal court last week. The Forest Service is also aggressively ticketing, hassling and prosecuting working people and families who may not pay the fee, due to understandings that undeveloped areas on Mt. Lemmon historically have not had fees. The current fee system is unfair and very unpopular with the public.

It is also of concern that the Forest Service seemingly often cannot account in detail for where peoples' fee dollars go and how exactly they are spent. For example, for years the Forest Service had been collecting millions in fees on the Santa Catalina Mountains and Sabino Canyon, but when a big flood recently damaged infrastructure in Sabino Canyon, the Coronado NF asked the public in Tucson to donate money for re-construction, leaving many people questioning where all the fee money was. In fact, much of it is spent on enforcing and collecting the fees, and other wasteful bureaucracy. In some fee areas, Rangers have to spend so much time with fee enforcement, they do little to no natural resource protection work.

The Forest Service has badly abused their authority to charge fees for public lands, and Congressional action is needed now to stop the HIRA and other excessive charges. People need a break from overzealous federal shakedowns like fees for simple low-impact access to undeveloped national forests and public lands, especially during these tough economic times.

Thank you,
Daniel Patterson and family

Watch Coronado National Forest boss Jeanine Derby face questioning about Mt. Lemmon fees on KUAT's Arizona Illustrated May 23 (fee discussion starts at about 10:15 in to the interview)

Watch the Congressional hearing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nice AZ quarter joins US majority with eco-designs

Grand Canyon State change

TUCSON -- The Arizona quarter is out and looks great. We should all be proud. Many states have attractive quarters, but ours is the best design so far. Great job by Gov. Napolitano and everyone who helped make it a reality.

Too bad our money won't buy much in this bad economy with prices on fuel, food and other essentials rising so fast.

With the Grand Canyon, Saguaro and desert design, Arizona joins the majority of states which have picked a natural or scenic image for their quarter.

I'm glad McCain and Bush/Cheney didn't get to pick the state quarter designs, as most would likely depict harmful oil & gas drilling on America's fragile public lands and waters.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Arizonans back Mexican wolf recovery, feds don't

Lobo is released in Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area by an AZ Game & Fish biologist

TUCSON -- Good news today on a southwestern conservation issue I've worked on for many years -- protection and recovery of the endangered Mexican gray wolf.

Arizonans overwhelmingly support having Mexican gray wolves back in the wilds of their state, with 77 percent of respondents supporting the reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves into public lands in Arizona and New Mexico, according to a new poll released today.

“The Mexican wolf has been on the brink of extinction for over three-quarters of century, and its very existence largely depends on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doing the right thing starting now,” said Dave Parsons, former biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This strong showing of support among Arizona residents should translate into modern agency policies and actions in keeping with modern public values to save the lobos from a second extinction in the wild.”

The scientific poll was supported by conservation and wildlife organizations, including Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility--Southwest, Arizona Zoological Society, New Mexico Audubon Council and the Southwest Environmental Center. The poll was conducted by Research and Polling, Inc., one of the Southwest’s largest market research firms.

“The Mexican gray wolf has strong and broad-based support among the voters in Arizona. Nearly four of every five Arizona voters support wolf reintroduction in the state. The primary reasons for supporting reintroduction revolve around the belief that wolves belong in nature and are beautiful and unique animals, in addition to being part of the west and our culture or history.” said Brian Sanderoff, President of Research and Polling Inc. “The large majority of Arizonans view wolves in a positive light, believe they help maintain a balance of nature, and they think wolves should receive greater protection under the Endangered Species Act until the population rebounds.”

When asked to choose between two statements, 76 percent of respondents chose “the wolf is a benefit to the West and helps maintain a balance of nature,” compared to 13 percent who opted for “the wolf kills too many elk, deer and livestock and does more harm than good.”

The poll captured residents’ views of different ways to manage Mexican wolves, including:

79 percent believe taxpayer dollars should be used to help ranchers prevent or reduce conflicts, versus 11 percent who believe taxpayer dollars should be used to remove or kill wolves that come into conflict with livestock.

67 percent of Arizonans support giving wolves greater protection under the Endangered Species Act to ensure the population rebounds.

60 percent believe ranchers should be required to remove or make inedible cattle that die of non-wolf causes, for example by applying lime, so wolves are not drawn to nearby live cattle.

Mexican wolves roamed the Southwest freely until a federal predator-control program wiped them out about 80 years ago. Mexican wolves were given protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1976, and their return to their wild homeland began with the release of three family groups of lobos in 1998, followed by additional releases through 2006. Wildlife biologists set a goal of at least 100 wolves, which they predicted would include 18 breeding pairs, by 2006.

The removal and killing of wolves that come into conflict with livestock has resulted in a population decline in three of the last four years. As of the latest population survey, conducted in early 2008, only 52 wolves and three breeding pairs were alive in the wilds of Arizona and New Mexico. Wildlife biologists and conservationists have urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to change the way it manages wolves to better prioritize wolf recovery.

The same poll conducted in New Mexico revealed similar strong support for wolves from New Mexicans.

- adapted from RPInc.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Rep. Giffords husband Kelly back safe on earth

NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly

TUCSON -- The space shuttle Discovery has landed safely back on earth today in Florida, piloted by Commander Mark Kelly, husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ8).

I paid more attention to this mission because I know the Congresswoman and Mark. He is a great guy. I was a little worried by the news yesterday that a piece of the shuttle was seen floating off in to space.

Welcome back to earth, Mark! I'm sure Congresswoman Giffords is very relieved and thrilled to have you safely back.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Patterson wins big AZ union endorsement (D-LD29)

Union backs Patterson for AZ House

TUCSON -- Winning the endorsement of UA Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 469 today capped a strong week of endorsements and support for the Patterson for State Rep (D-district 29) campaign.

"...UA Local 496 is enthusiastically backing your campaign... and look(s) forward to helping you succeed," says Phil McNally, Business Manager.

I'm thrilled and honored to win the union's support. Thank you! I've always been a strong voice for labor and working people, and I will continue to be at the Capitol.

UA Local 469 Plumbers and Pipefitters was chartered in 1910, two-years before Arizona became the 48th state. For over 95 years they've been protecting the health of our nation through quality Plumbing, Pipefitting and HVAC Service work.

In other great news, we got our big check today from the Citizens Clean Elections Commission and put it in our healthy campaign account.

Meddling Horne should help public schools or quit

Adam Perez greets Tom Horne outside TUSD HQ downtown

TUCSON -- People in Pima County have had it with State Superintendent of Education Tom Horne meddling in local school decisions.

Yesterday, my wife and I, and many others, attended a press conference by TUSD and supporters in favor of the very successful and popular ethnic studies program. Several prominent community leaders, including Chairman of the Pima County Supervisors Richard Elias, talked about the useful and positive nature of the program, which I support.

Outgoing TUSD Superintendent Roger Pfeuffer said about Horne's attacks, "This is the behavior of a politician, not an educator. He espouses research-based practices but he ignores the evidence we've shown him about Ethnic Studies."

Tom Horne

After the positive local event, Horne has his own xenophobic press conference outside under a tree. He wants to abolish ethnic studies statewide, which is far outside his purview or authority. Horne ended up looking and sounding very out of touch.

"His behavior is unprofessional and he's abusing the authority of his office. He's inserting a personal, political agenda into a public school district," said Pfeuffer.

I agree Tom Horne needs a hug. He needs to stay out of Tucson and local public school decisions. Horne must focus on improving support for teachers and public schools in Arizona. If he won't do these two things, Horne should resign.

I support our teachers. When I'm in the State House, with your support and vote, I will work cooperatively to protect local control and keep Horne out of local schools business.

Pro-labor poet Utah Phillips catches out to heaven

Utah Phillips with Ani DiFranco

NEVADA CITY CA -- Utah Phillips, a compassionate activist, poet and musician who helped shape some of my political views, died recently at age 73.

He described himself as 'the golden voice of the great southwest'.

Rest in peace, Utah Phillips, but I doubt it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

AZ Legislature right to oppose excessive Real ID

In a rare show of unity, the Arizona Legislature sticks it to Bush/Cheney/Chertoff on Real ID

UPDATE, 6/18: Gov. Napolitano signs bill to keep AZ out of feds' Real ID.

PHOENIX -- I salute the Arizona House of Representatives for agreeing with me and voting 51-1 yesterday to pass a bill that would block Arizona from participating in the Bush/Cheney administration's 'Real ID' program.

If Governor Napolitano signs the bill (HB2677), Arizona will become the 10th state to reject Real ID. If she vetoes it, the Governor is almost certain to be overruled by a two-thirds vote in the Legislature. She could also let it become law without her signature.

I don't blame the Governor here. The feds have been bullying and threatening states over Real ID. Now that the Legislature has so strongly rejected it, the Governor should go along.

The costs, and threats to privacy and civil liberties, from Real ID are real and big. Congress should step in and repeal or fix Real ID.

We need secure IDs, but Real ID is excessive and un-American.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Patterson for AZ House gets clean elections cash

Daniel Patterson with his wife and daughter

UPDATE, 6/12: Support Daniel at the LD29 debate, Thursday, July 17, 7-8:30pm, PCC District Office Community Board Room, 4905 E. Broadway.

TUCSON -- More good news today in Patterson's campaign for State Rep in district 29 on the south and southeast sides.

Our positive clean campaign to solve problems, help people and build bridges for change has been approved by the State of Arizona for full clean elections funding.

We're in to win to help the economy, environment, education, heath care, equality, human rights and other public interest needs. The time for change is now!

Big thanks and huge appreciation to my family, all our supporters and volunteers. We look forward to winning gains for working people in the Arizona Legislature. I need your vote in the LD29 primary July 31-Sept 2.

Also reported in the Tucson Weekly.

Big energy politics in DC beat Grand Canyon nature

Superintendent Steve Martin is under attack from more bad politics over science from Bush/Cheney

GRAND CANYON AZ -- Bush/Cheney Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne is silencing calls from the Superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park for more river surges, according to correspondence released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Interior Department is also signaling that it will not repeat its much ballyhooed Grand Canyon flush from this March regardless of biological need.

Since construction of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, the Colorado River's volume through the Grand Canyon has been artificially set. On March 4, 2008, Interior allowed a 60-hour high flow experiment through the canyon. Both National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife officials expressed concern that any benefit to wildlife from a single surge would be lost if not repeated, since a more natural flow pattern is needed to lift sediment onto beaches and facilitate reproduction of endangered canyon fish.

The most outspoken has been Superintendent Steve Martin who wrote that "Based on current scientific information, lack of inclusion of additional high flows could lead to impairment of the resources of Grand Canyon National Park." This "impairment" finding makes Interior's steady flow regime legally vulnerable and has sparked an intense campaign by water users to force Martin to retract his statements.

In a March 26, 2008 letter, water officials from the five-state Upper Colorado River Commission urged Secretary Kempthorne to rein in Martin:

"[W]e have been surprised by statements by Park Service personnel, particularly Steve Martin, Superintendent of the Grand Canyon National Park, regarding the high flow experimental program. Some of those statements are contradictory and inconsistent with other agencies within the Department….Mr. Martin also stated that man-made floods need to occur about once every one or two years….that newly created beaches will be eroded within one to two years….[W]e urge you to affirm that additional experiments and actions beyond the approved program, including additional high flow releases, are not contemplated at this time."

On May 20, 2008, Secretary Kempthorne wrote in reply that -

"We are well aware of the inconsistent statements referenced in your letter…These statements do not reflect the Department's unanimous final decision regarding this matter….I hope this letter, along with implementation of the Department's recent decisions, will assuage any concerns that you may have…"
Prior to the March high-flow experiment, Interior papered over internal disagreements by invoking an "adaptive management" strategy that, in theory, would allow the scientific results to dictate future flows.

"A living Grand Canyon requires a living river," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "'Adaptive management' is a sham to veil a predetermined mandate to run the Colorado River for maximum power."

Adding to the political pressure is a May 15, 2008 letter to Kempthorne from 17 Republican House members, including Arizona's John Shadegg, Trent Franks and Jeff Flake, admonishing that future river management decisions must "balance any environmental benefits with the costs to power consumers in the West, particularly during a time of record-high energy prices."

Superintendent Martin is a 30-year National Park Service veteran who previously served as Deputy Director before being named Grand Canyon Superintendent in February 2007.

"Political interference with science in Interior starts at the top," Ruch added, alluding to a string of recent scientific manipulation scandals in Interior. "Removing or censoring the Grand Canyon Superintendent for defending park resources will create a firestorm that will completely consume Secretary Kempthorne's attempts to leave any positive legacy on national park issues."

Other coverage: AP/AZ Republic, 6/15

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Patterson for Rep endorsements growing (D-LD29)

John C. Scott backs Patterson for State Rep in district 29

UPDATE, 6/16: John C. Scott's formal endorsement: 'To the Voters in Legislative District 29:

'As a former Democratic State Senator in Arizona, and as a long-time political talk show host on Tucson radio, I endorse Daniel Patterson for the Arizona House of Representatives.

'Mr. Patterson has the commitment, knowledge and ability to be a great lawmaker.

'In this large field of candidates, Daniel Patterson stands out as a qualified leader.

'I ask you to join me in my support for Daniel Patterson for the State House in district 29. -- John C. Scott

TUCSON -- I'm proud to report that lots of people, including leaders with long and respected southern Arizona political histories, are backing our positive clean campaign for State Representative in district 29 on the south and southeast sides.

Today, I received the endorsement of John C. Scott, the respected and influential political radio show host and former State Senator who broadcasts from a studio on the south side in LD29.

The John C. Scott Show is "the most talked to, talked about, listened to talk show" in southern Arizona. Nationally acclaimed PBS Satirist Mark Russell calls John C. Scott "the Conscience of Tucson". Broadcasting The John C. Scott Show since 1990, John regularly interviews elected officials, foreign policy and Middle East experts, reporters, religious leaders, and Presidential Candidates. John C. Scott has broadcast live from the Arizona Legislature, Israel, Vietnam, China, and Mexico City. John started his radio journalism in Tucson the 1960s, and has also served as a news anchor for several television stations.

Since day 1, I've been endorsed and strongly backed by Elaine Richardson, retired State Senator/Rep and member of Governor Napolitano's cabinet who is also a long-time respected community figure and businesswoman. Elaine lives near downtown and is the Hon. co-chair of my campaign for the Arizona Legislature.

I'm proud to also be backed by Pima County Constable Colette Philip, former State Rep Carmine Cardamone, southern Arizona labor leader Jim Watson, long-time south side neighborhood leader Albert Gallego, my family and hundreds of other long-time and new Tucsonans.

I'm honored they recognize me as a leader and the best qualified candidate with a proven record of public service in Tucson -- a family man who will solve problems, help people and build bridges for change.

We are awaiting more likely endorsements from other influential groups and leaders. Thank you!

UPDATE, 6/11: Today the Patterson for State House campaign was approved by the State of Arizona for full clean elections funding. Big thanks to all our supporters!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Protect AZ's Freedom takes on Connerly initiative

Divisive Maricopa County attorney Andrew Thomas, at left listening to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, chairs the anti-opportunity effort

TUCSON -- Saying 'Arizona is better than this,' a broad coalition of Arizonans opposing the Connerly anti-equal opportunity ballot initiative has scheduled press conferences in Phoenix and Tucson for June 10 and 11, to reveal deceptive signature-gathering tactics expected in Arizona.

Phoenix Press Conference: Tuesday, June 10, at 11:00AM, Lawn outside Arizona State House Chamber, State Capitol Complex.

Tucson Press Conference: Wednesday, June 11, at 1:30PM, Pima County Courthouse, 115 North Church Ave., Downtown Tucson.

"Arizonans are honest, independent people who follow the rules," noted PAF Chair Kyrsten Sinema in announcing the Press Conference. "It's important to let citizens know about the underhanded tactics used by California's Ward Connerly in other states, including lies, deception and the use of out-of-state petition circulators with criminal histories."

"We demand that Ward Connerly steps up, answers some questions and provides assurance that his team will operate by the high standards we expect in Arizona," Sinema concluded.

- from PAF

Conservative but likable AZ Sen. Jake Flake dies

Franklin 'Jake' Flake, 1935-2008

TUCSON -- Jake Flake, Arizona State Senator from Snowflake, died Sunday at age 72.

Mr. Flake was a very conservative Republican rancher. As a progressive Democrat, I didn't agree with him much, but whenever we talked about environment, agriculture, water and natural resources issues facing Arizona, I always appreciated his experience, viewpoint and attitude.

I liked that Jake was the type of man who could usually disagree without being disagreeable.

My respect and condolences go out to Mr. Flake's family and friends.

Friday, June 06, 2008

US & AZ economy woes top issue in 08 elections

Inflation and other economic problems are big concerns calling for new leadership

TUCSON -- The US economy took a heavyweight punch to its glass jaw today with a nearly $11 jump in oil prices to record highs, the biggest monthly drop in jobs since 1986 with 50,000 more unemployed, inflation, the housing crisis and a big drop in the stock market.

People are feeling the pain of the money pinch. My family and I are feeling it. Our neighbors and friends are feeling it. The American and Arizona economy is clearly in recession. There is reason to be worried, and a clear need to vote for change.

The economy, for good reason, is the top issue of concern for voters in the 2008 elections, at all levels. Obama and McCain should be talking a lot about it. I know I will.

Protecting people at-risk and improving the economy are important priorities in my campaign for State Rep (D-LD29).

Our future quality of life depends on electing new leaders who will stop the 'race to the bottom' and start to build and support a fair, healthy and sustainable economy for all.

GM wise to drop Hummer, build electric car Volt

Will the Chevy Volt help revive GM?

DETROIT -- General Motors is smart to be looking to drop the Hummer line of ugly gas-guzzlers, and instead put more attention on fuel efficient cars, including the upcoming Chevy Volt.

While this is good news, GM's move away from Hummers and giant SUVs is long overdue, coming at a time of record high oil prices.

Good luck selling a gas hog Hummer now or in the future

What is sad here is many autoworkers will be hurt by GM management's much too late shift away from gas guzzlers. Workers on the assembly lines at affected plants suffer again from terrible decisions made by GM executives in glass towers, this time the obsession with Hummers and SUVs when GM should have been building more efficient vehicles.

Too bad big oil and GM management killed the electric EV-1 many years ago when, despite big protests, GM hauled all of the groundbreaking electric vehicles to Mesa, Arizona and crushed them. While the EV-1 was far from perfect, the move by GM executives to drop it was a big setback and delay to clean car technology we so badly need now.

Nevertheless, in these tough economic and environmental times, I wish GM well in it's move toward much more efficient vehicles.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Lieberman-Warner bill not global warming solution

The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act is substantially inadequate: atmospheric carbon target falls far short of 350 ppm; will not save the Polar Bear, reverse Arctic melting trend, or prevent catastrophic runaway global warming

UPDATE, 6/6: Coverage in Washington Post.

TUCSON -- Global warming is one of the greatest collective threats humanity has ever faced. Atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane levels have soared well beyond any previous high of the past 800,000 years. The current atmospheric carbon dioxide level of 385 parts per million (ppm) has already exceeded the maximum safe level of 350 ppm [1]. If the carbon level is not immediately and dramatically reduced, natural tipping points will likely be triggered, causing runaway warming outside of human control. Recent spikes in methane, ocean acidification, and Arctic melting that exceed those predicted by scientific models are initial indications that dangerous positive feedback loops may already have been triggered [2].

The acceleration of Arctic sea-ice melt is of special concern because of its threat to polar bears and because the Arctic has long been identified as a likely global tipping point. Sea ice reflects the sun’s energy back to space, cooling the planet. When the ice is replaced by water — which absorbs the sun’s energy — Arctic warming accelerates rapidly. Additionally, massive methane reservoirs currently locked in the frozen tundra are released, further exacerbating global warming. The net effect is to switch the Arctic from a planetary cooling to a planetary warming mechanism. If the Arctic’s energy balance is not restored very soon, the Greenland ice sheet may be put on an irreversible melting trajectory that would raise global sea levels by approximately 20 feet.

The conclusion of NASA’s James Hansen: “Present policies, with continued construction of coal-fired power plants without CO2 capture, suggest that decision-makers do not appreciate the gravity of the situation. We must begin to move now toward the era beyond fossil fuels. Continued growth of greenhouse gas emissions, for just another decade, practically eliminates the possibility of near-term return of atmospheric composition beneath the tipping level for catastrophic effects… [I]f the world continues on a business-as-usual path for even another decade without initiating phase-out of unconstrained coal use, prospects for avoiding a dangerously large, extended overshoot of the 350 ppm level will be dim.” [1]

Any greenhouse gas regulation bill that does not 1) prescribe emission levels that will reduce atmospheric carbon to 350 ppm, 2) prioritize reductions in methane and black carbon emissions, 3) ensure the reversal of Arctic melting to avoid a planetary tipping, 4) prohibit the construction of new, and phase out existing, non-CO2-capturing coal-fired power plants, and 5) save the polar bear from extinction, will not solve the global warming crisis.

The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (CSA), in its original and substitute form, represents a substantial effort to shift the United States toward a low carbon economy while developing and funding strategies to allow ecosystems and human communities to adapt to unavoidable warming impacts. The current form includes important new protections for plants, wildlife and endangered species.

Unfortunately, however, the CSA meets none of the criteria for an adequate greenhouse gas bill. If all of its goals are met (and none its loopholes activated), the CSA will reduce total U.S. emissions by only 66 percent below the 2005 level [3]. The bill’s authors and the EPA agree that under this scenario, atmospheric carbon levels will grow from 385 ppm to 488 ppm and remain on an increasing trajectory [4].

This level of atmospheric carbon will produce catastrophic impacts to human health and economies, wildlife, and ecosystems. It will undermine the bill’s wildlife adaptation provisions as most wildlife will simply not be able to adapt such a world, regardless of conservation efforts. Neither Arctic summer sea-ice nor polar bears will survive under these conditions.

The Sanders-Boxer, Waxman and Markey bills, and the proposed Sanders’ amendment to CSA would deepen emission cuts to 80-85 percent of 2005 levels, resulting in a carbon level of approximately 450 ppm. These excellent bills need to be updated based on the newest science which shows that the 450 ppm target will not avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The current state of scientific knowledge indicates that carbon dioxide must be reduced to 350 ppm [1]. As the atmospheric concentration is already is already 385 ppm, it is imperative that carbon emissions be cut by at least 90 percent and augmented by sequestration programs to make the United States a net carbon sink.

References: [1] Hansen et al. 2008. Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?

[2] Catchpole, D. 2008. Scientists warn of rising Pacific Coast acidity. Associated Press, May 28, 2008; Black, R. 2008. Methane rise points to wetlands. British Broadcasting Service, May 23, 2008. Stroeve, J. et al. 2008. Arctic sea ice extent plummets in 2007. Eos 89:13-20.

[3] Boxer, Barbara. 2008. A Summary of the Boxer Substitute Amendment to the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, May 16, 2008.

[4] A press release issued by Senator Lieberman on October 18, 2008 asserts “if the U.S. achieves emissions reductions of the magnitude mandated by ACSA, then — making conservative assumptions about the pace of emissions reductions in the rest of the world — the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will remain below 500 parts per million (ppm) at the end of this century.” A March 14, 2008 report by the EPA entitled “EPA Analysis of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008” concludes that full implementation would result in an atmospheric carbon level of 488 ppm, but on an increasing trend, by 2095 (page 192). These estimates assume a related level of international action which is outside the purview of the bill.

Graph Sources: Current path: World Resources Institute. 2007. Comparison of Legislative Climate Change Targets in the 110th Congress.

450 ppm stabilization window: Metz, B. 2007. Time for action? Options to address climate change. Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Co-chairman, IPCC Working Group III. Presented in Dublin, Ireland, Nov. 27, 2007; den Elzen, M. G. J. and M. Meinshausen. 2005. Meeting the EU 2°C climate target: global and regional emission implications. Report 728001031/2005. Annex I nations reduction target calibrated to 2005.

Bills: targets as described in bills, calibrated to 2005, change between target years presumed to be linear.

- adapted from CBD

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Senate investigates top threat to US land & water

Off-road wreckreation along the Rubicon Trail, Sierra Nevada CA

WASHINGTON -- The national effort to minimize mounting off-road vehicle damage on federal lands by designating routes for motorized traffic is going badly off course, according to congressional testimony released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are wasting substantial time and money without benefiting streams, wildlife, eroding landscapes and the public who hike, fish, hunt and camp on these lands.

In testimony submitted for Chairman Sen. Jeff Bingaman's (D-NM) Senate Energy & Natural Resources committee hearing tomorrow on “off-highway vehicle management on public lands”, California PEER Director Karen Schambach outlines the failures on the Eldorado National Forest, the first Sierra Nevada national forest to complete the route designation process, to protect natural resources from the effects of off-road vehicle (ORV) abuse:

· Forest management repeatedly overruled its own scientists and wildlife specialists to approve ORV routes that crossed streams, damaged watersheds and ripped up meadows. The Eldorado National Forest even approved routes that had previously been earmarked for decommissioning;

· Contrary to legal requirements, the Eldorado did no site specific analyses of designated routes, thus eliminating the possibility of minimizing resource conflicts that were never documented; and

· The Eldorado never developed an enforcement plan. Nor does it have a program for restoring damaged landscapes.

“On the Eldorado, route designation has been an expensive paper exercise that has gone horribly wrong,” stated Schambach. “The Forest Service is simply perpetuating mayhem and calling it a plan.”

One factor cited by Schambach in her testimony is the bullying tactics by some off-road groups, including threats and harassment and intimidation of Forest Service employees. In some national forests, the atmosphere created by off-roaders has gotten so intense town hall-type meetings were replaced by day- or evening-long “open houses” to minimize opportunities for grandstanding and intimidation.

“An essential conflict is that off-roading is a preclusive use of public lands, driving off every other form of recreation,” Schambach added, citing as an example the most popular hiking trail in the Eldorado’s Georgetown Ranger District which, even though it is barely 24 inches wide, has been designated for ORVs with a 40 inch wheel base. “If the Forest Service stays on the path it has charted on the Eldorado, national forests will be steadily carved up into motorized theme parks.”

Tomorrow’s Senate hearing is the first attempt by that body to grapple with the growing ORV problem. In mid-March, the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, chaired by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), held a groundbreaking oversight hearing entitled “The Impacts of Unmanaged Off-Road Vehicles on Federal Land”. That hearing featured testimony from a PEER-organized network of retired public lands law enforcement professionals called Rangers for Responsible Recreation whose testimony stressed how ORV route designation was doomed to failure without manageable trails and adequate enforcement.

UPDATE, 6/5: Hearing info and video link.; More coverage in The Hill; Gannett; Las Vegas Review-Journal

Sunday, June 01, 2008

NM, greens fight TX on dirty ASARCO smelter plan

ASARCO's closed dirty smelter looms over TX, NM and MX neighborhoods.

LAS CRUCES NM -- The State of New Mexico has officially joined environmental groups pushing to block a Texas rubber stamp on a plan by foreign-owned ASARCO to open a dirty copper smelter in El Paso.

The smelter would harm air quality, public health and the climate. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should turn down the Texas pollution permit.

Despite industry claims that 'we need copper', most US produced copper is exported to China, India and other developing nations. We get the pollution and cancer, big mining corporations get the money, and other nations get the copper.

Currently based in Tucson, ASARCO is now owned by Grupo Mexico in Mexico City, but India's Sterlite Industries is trying to buy ASARCO. The pending sale of the company may change plans for the smelter.