Saturday, May 31, 2008

Patterson for Rep turns in clean donations (D-LD29)

Daniel Patterson: leader, family man, ecologist
(Wall Street Journal image)

TUCSON -- This week, the Secretary of State accepted clean elections donations collected by the Daniel Patterson for Arizona House campaign.

I'm in to win in on Tucson's south and southeast sides in LD29 -- to solve problems, help people and build bridges for change.

I appreciate the strong support from voters, and ask for your vote in the primary July 31-Sept 2. We also welcome volunteers to help on our positive campaign for the common good.

I'm running to help education, the economy, health care, the environment and other concerns because I love Tucson, and I'm optimistic about Arizona's future with new leaders in the State House.

I have a proven track record of positive public service in Tucson and LD29.

"Daniel Patterson has leadership experience and a true commitment on issues that concern all of us. It is seldom that we are so fortunate to have such a strong candidate as Daniel," says Patterson campaign Hon. Chair Elaine Richardson, retired Arizona Senator and Gov. Napolitano cabinet member. "Daniel is an intelligent, hard-working man. He will bring positive values to the Legislature and serve his constituents and the State of Arizona well. Daniel Patterson will help change the tone at the State Capitol. He will serve the public interest, not special interests."

"…I can attest to the fact that Daniel is a strong and resounding voice for all of us who live here. Daniel cares about children and the future issues they may face," says Mary C. Rogers, TUSD teacher and LD29 voter.

We have money in the bank, and will be fully funded for the primary as soon as the required clean elections verification process is completed.

Earlier this month, our nominating petitions were accepted to put Patterson on the ballot.

I'm confident about this race, and will continue to campaign hard. I thank all our supporters.

Democrats and Independents: VOTE PATTERSON in the primary July 31-Sept 2. Thank you!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Bush FERC serves big energy, rejects AZ decision

Arizona and the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge are at risk from the terrible FERC decision

PHOENIX -- The Bush/Cheney administration says it's OK for SoCal Edison to bypass State of Arizona denial of a proposed giant new power line project across Arizona.

Time to fight back, Arizona and the Arizona Corporation Commission.

The Democratic-controlled Congress needs to take action now to revise the problematic 2005 energy bill and stop these abuses of states by big corporations and their federal lap dogs.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gordon, Wilcox hit for pushing Apache Leap mine

John McCain is backing polluting foreign corporations, not concerned Arizonans

PHOENIX -- Yesterday, Superior and Pinal County locals, Apaches, and conservationists protested at Phoenix City Hall against greed politics and mining pollution aimed at rural Arizonans.

Shamefully, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon (D) and Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox (D) hosted a reception to welcome and introduce the new president of Resolution Copper Company, David Salisbury. Resolution is owned by foreign corporations BHP and Rio Tinto, both notorious long-time global polluters.

Apache elders say no to Rio Tinto and corrupt politics

Says Jeneiene Schaffer, campaign organizer for AZ Mining Reform Coalition, “The groups and a number of residents and former residents of Superior sent a clear message to Mayor Gordon and Supervisor Wilcox that a proposed land exchange for Resolution Copper Company comes with much controversy and many concerns.”

Also of concern is the amount of water that will be used by Resolution Copper Company.

According to Manuel Ortega, Chair of Superior’s Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners Coalition, “The southwestern part of the United States is currently in a prolonged drought. Mining is one of the most water-intensive industries on earth. Mining on Oak Flat could dewater Queen Creek and its aquifer. Superior and Oak Flat are in the Maricopa County Active Management Area, so whatever water is used for mining will affect the East Valley in addition to the local community.”

The land exchange, proposed by disgraced corrupt Congressman Rick Renzi (R-AZ) and now being carried in the US House by Congressman Ed Pastor (D-AZ) and in the Senate by Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain (Rs-AZ), would harm the Oak Flat campground and the surrounding Apache Leap lands, sacred to the San Carlos Apaches and enjoyed by many Americans.

The public would lose Oak Flat in the land exchange, plus a public land order issued by President Eisenhower more than 50 years to protect the area from mining would also be rescinded in the land swap bill. Because this land exchange is being legislated, it does not get the same open public process, analysis and scrutiny that an administrative exchange would get, including an Environmental Impact Statement that would examine the impacts and also look at alternatives.

No give away of American land to BHP and Rio Tinto

Oak Flat, located in the Tonto National Forest east of Superior, is a world-class natural resource for rock climbers, bird watches, hikers, campers and other recreational user groups. Oak Flat is a unique recreational area located within a convenient one-hour drive from Phoenix. The area is sacred to the San Carlos Apache Tribe as well as other tribes from central Arizona.

Oak flat is a rare treasure of ancient rock formations, spectacular scenery, challenging trails to explore, and an exceptional year-round location for family outdoor recreation,” asserts Nate VanKeuren, VP of Mesa 4 Wheelers, the oldest four wheeling club in Arizona. “We oppose losing this asset in a land swap that would lock the public out of this area forever. Remember, it's all about land stewardship: we did not inherit this land from our forefathers, we are borrowing it from our children.”

Resolution Copper Company, which is owned by British and Australian companies has, in addition, failed to adequately plan for and mediate the destructive impacts of hard rock mining on both the environment and the local economy.

Says Bob Witzeman, Conservation Chair of Maricopa Audubon Society and long-time Arizona conservationist, “Experts have demonstrated that Resolution Copper Company’s proposed method of mining, block cave, will cause irreparable destruction to the surface of Oak Flat and Apache Leap. Since the block cave method creates a huge volume of tailings which are toxic to both the water supply and the air we breathe and the company has not yet determined how they will deal with the tailings, we are concerned about the impact of these tailings on the area and also wonder about their future reclamation.”

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Border Patrol corruption bad, and getting worse

On the take?

TUCSON -- Not surprisingly, more and more corrupt US Border Patrol and Department of Homeland Security officers are directly aiding illegal smuggling.

'Increased corruption is linked, in part, to tougher enforcement, driving smugglers to recruit federal employees as accomplices,' from today's NY Times.

Border agent corruption is something many in the southwest have known for years.

The feds' unwise rush to hire thousands more warm bodies ASAP to join the Border Patrol and the growing 'security-industrial complex' will just make the corruption worse, DHS admits.

Just another disturbing example of many about how US 'get tough' border enforcement and militarization policies are failing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Retired Forest Service cop fights off-road abuse

Thank a good ranger

ATLANTA -- Read a good article on my friend and colleague Jack Gregory, a member of the Rangers for Responsible Recreation.

More public lands and ORV coverage by DPC in San Diego.

USDA: climate change harming American west

'Lake' Powell AZ/UT

TUCSON -- A public draft of a U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) report scheduled for release today includes findings that climate change already has inflicted major damage on large sections of the western United States and predicts impacts will spread to more areas and become more severe.

The 227-page draft USDA report, "The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources, and Biodiversity," was culled from reviews of more than 1,000 publications. It is one in a series of 21 analyses of global warming by federal agencies conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, which coordinates the climate change research activities of U.S. government agencies.

The full draft USDA report covers several topics and examines impacts across the United States. Included in the draft are estimates on a broad range of serious, often interconnected impacts in the West:
  • Arid Lands: The West's arid lands comprise one of the nation's fastest-growing regions, and include the cities of Las Vegas, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Tucson and Salt Lake City. Predicted impacts include "continental-scale impacts on downwind ecosystems, air quality, and human populations" from increased wind erosion; major losses of signature desert species, such as saguaro cactus and Joshua trees; and increased drought, severe rainstorms, and erosion, which will help spark widespread desertification.
  • Rangelands: Predicted impacts include "climate changes . . . (that) could impact the economic viability of livestock production systems worldwide;" major economic losses to the livestock industry from the combined impacts of climate change (heat waves, loss of quality food plants) and historic land management practices; and disappearing rangelands from the Great Plains to the desert Southwest, with grasses replaced by invasive, non-native shrubs and trees.
  • Forests: Predicted impacts include major increases in the size and scope of insect infestations and wildfires. Because forests absorb and store carbon, dead forests release that stored carbon back into the atmosphere, which has the potential to further increase climate change impacts.
  • Fish Stocks: Impacts include dwindling salmon runs, with some rivers becoming too warm to support any salmon at all; serious fresh-water stream damage from lower water flows, higher temperatures, silting from erosion and non-native plant invasions; major losses of cold-water lake fish habitat; and substantial degradation of water quality.

UPDATE: The final report is now out; not sure yet if any of the findings have been changed. USDA news release.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Napolitano named in Obama's top 5 VP options

Obama/Napolitano 08?

PHOENIX -- Governor Napolitano is named in the top five of possible VP picks for Barack Obama in a Detroit Free Press article.

Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico is also on the list.

I'd be surprised to see Janet be the VP choice, but you never know. She could help Obama win Arizona, which is do-able if the Dems want to fight for it. John McCain failed to get a even a majority of GOP voters here to back him in the Arizona presidential primary election Feb 5.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Cool Memorial Day weekend in southern Arizona

TUCSON -- 75 degrees right now in the Old Pueblo. Very nice.

We're enjoying the weekend, and hope you are too. Out on the campaign today, and going well.

Ruby grows. My pride and joy. Prissy smiles, if I am lucky.

Go Pistons, Lakers, Diamondbacks! Have a cold cerveza, mi amigo.

Remember the fallen on Memorial Day. End the Iraq war.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Napolitano should veto anti-environment SB1264

Karen Johnson (R-Mesa) pushed SB1264 for off-road vehicle lobbyists

UPDATE, 5/27: The Governor vetoed this bad bill today. Thank you!

PHOENIX -- Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano should veto the Legislature's unneeded and reckless SB1264.

Arizona already has nearly endless roads crossing our public lands. This unwise over-broad bill is likely to just create confusion rather than open up bogus RS 2477 so-called 'roads' to off-road vehicles as its proponents would like to do, but it is a bad message, and could block or slow down efforts to protect our public lands from damaging off-road vehicle abuse and related crimes.

SB1264 would also harm wildlife habitat, hunting and fishing opportunities, and increase fire risk, as most fires start along roads.

SB1264 would also hurt private property rights as seen in a Colorado case involving these types of rights-of-way.

Some provisions in this bill could disturb some of our military bases as well, which is why the US Marine Corps base in Yuma opposes SB1264.

Time for our Governor to stand up for the public-interest again by vetoing the unsupportable SB1264. Please contact her now at azgov(at)az(dot)gov and ask her to veto SB1264.

The passage of outrageous waste-of-time bills like SB1264 is yet another example of the need to 'clean House' this fall and elect new legislators and a Democratic majority.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Reminder: Shanker for Congress event Friday

Shanker event Friday

TUCSON -- A friendly reminder to please show up and support Howard Shanker for Congress this Friday evening downtown.

This is a good opportunity for people from Pinal and Pima County to talk with Howard, who in CD1 will help tip the balance of Arizona's US House delegation to the Democrats.

Click on the top link above for all info. Thanks.

Border militarization harming AZ wildlife refuges

Bush/Chertoff's lawless border militarization and walls are badly damaging wildlife refuges

TUCSON -- Two National Wildlife Refuges in Arizona are among the most threatened in the U.S., according to a new report by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Buenos Aires and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuges find themselves virtually under siege due to militarization of our border and the ravages of mechanized traffic through fragile desert wildlife habitat.

The National Wildlife Refuge System was commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 when he designated Florida’s Pelican Island as America’s first wildlife refuge. Today the system encompasses more than 540 refuges in all 50 states.

Based upon interviews with refuge staff, PEER identified the Ten Most Imperiled Refuges in the U.S. The threatened refuges span the nation from Alaska’s Yukon to the Florida Keys and are in jeopardy due to mining, drilling, pollution and other human intrusions. The other eight most threatened refuges are:

· National Key Deer Refuge (FL) – sprawling development and auto traffic

· National Bison Range (MT) – paralyzing dispute over demands to remove refuge control from FWS

· Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge (NC) – road construction

· Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge (AK) – land exchange for oil & gas drilling

· Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (NY) – limestone quarry

· Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge (MI) – agricultural pollution

· Baca National Wildlife Refuge (CO) – oil and gas drilling

· San Pablo Bay and Marin Islands National Wildlife Refuges (CA) – water pollution and sprawl

“Each of these threatened refuges has a different story, but they all share the peril of politics undermining the mission of wildlife protection,” remarked Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson. “Cabeza Prieta and Buenos Aires are imperiled because they are inside what has become a war zone – to the extreme detriment of the wildlife that is supposed to find refuge on these refuges.”

Buenos Aires
also is suffering from growing destructive recreational and border-related off-road vehicle traffic that has outstripped the ability of that refuge to manage. ORVs have become the top law enforcement problem and source of resource damage on public lands in the West, according to analyses prepared by PEER.

“Holistic federal immigration policy reform is badly needed to address major environmental damage caused by border walls and militarization,” Patterson added. “Desert habitat cannot withstand the scarring inflicted by DHS, smugglers and recreational off-road vehicles, and wildlife has no defense against walls and rampaging trucks.”


Other coverage: Denver Post; AZ Daily Star

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fifth 75 mile migrant trail walk for life next week

Support the walk, and humane US immigration policy reform

TUCSON -- On Monday, May 26, for the fifth year in a row, a diverse group of people will begin a 75 mile walk to call attention to the human rights crisis that is occurring on our borders. We walk in solidarity with migrants and we demand an end to the deaths in the desert.

The Walk will begin Monday, May 26 in Sásabe, Sonora, Mexico, and arrive at Kennedy Park in southwest Tucson on Sunday, June 1st for a closing ceremony.

"I'm a Chicana, and my people are risking their lives for a chance of a better tomorrow," says Nancy Rivera from Mennonite Central Committee. "As a church worker, the Migrant Trail is an opportunity to walk in solidarity with my marginalized brothers and sisters, so that eventually the deaths will cease."

Since the 1990s, it is estimated that more than 5,000 migrants have lost their lives crossing the U.S./México border. As the summer approaches, the number of migrants dying in the desert will begin to increase dramatically, and many will die the horrible death of dehydration and exposure. These deaths, a direct result of failed and flawed border and immigration policies, must be prevented.

"The Migrant Trail is an important spiritual witness to the challenging reality of our borderlands today," says Brother David Buer, a Franciscan friar serving the San Xavier Mission in Tucson. "It is a moral imperative that we embrace our desperate migrant brothers and sisters with more humane policies and action."

The Migrant Trail: We walk for Life is a joint endeavor of community groups and individuals from both sides of the border, including the Migrant Trail Walk Committee, Coalición de Derechos Humanos, BorderLinks, West Coast Mennonite Central Committee, Catholic Relief Services--Mexico Program, No More Deaths--Phoenix, No More Deaths--Tucson, 8th Day Center for Justice, Coloradans for Immigrants Rights, Frontera de Cristo, Humane Borders, American Friends Service Committee--Tucson, JPIC Office of the St. Barbara Province Franciscans, Casa Maria, SOA Tucson, Witness for Peace--México, Shalom Mennonite Fellowship, and Church of the Good Shepherd.

Participants and organizers of the Migrant Trail call on all people of conscience to stand in solidarity with our migrant sisters and brothers. More info.

- adapted from CDH

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New movement to protect cactus pygmy owl again

The lovable cactus pygmy owl's future is in our hands

UPDATE, 5/31: USFWS responds to notice, reconsidering owl's status.

TUCSON -- Today, the Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Defenders of Wildlife had to file an official notice of intent to take the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to court, due to the agency's failure to respond to a petition to re-establish protection for the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl as an endangered species.

The petition asks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the owl as endangered in three possible ways: in just Arizona; in the Sonoran Desert as a whole (Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico); or throughout the range of the western subspecies (Arizona, Sonora and Sinaloa). All three entities qualify for Endangered Species Act protection.

“The pygmy owl should never have been removed from the endangered species list,” said Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center and primary author of the petition. “The pygmy owl is near extinction in Arizona and sharply declining in northern Sonora. It desperately needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act to survive.”

The cactus ferruginous pygmy owl was listed as an endangered species in Arizona in 1997. In 2003, a federal court ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to better explain its decision that the Arizona population is “distinct” from birds in Mexico. In response, the agency removed the population from the list in 2006, arguing that while the pygmy owl is highly endangered, it does not qualify as a “distinct population segment” because it is not significant to the species as a whole.

In delisting the pygmy owl, the Fish and Wildlife Service dismissed scientific evidence that suggested that the owl should be protected throughout the Sonoran Desert and overrode its own biologists by removing the imperiled bird from the endangered species list. An internal Fish and Wildlife Service white paper concluded, “In our analysis of potential DPS boundaries for the pygmy owl, this division presented a logical DPS boundary based on ecological conditions, pygmy owl distribution and genetics.”

“Biologists in Arizona can’t do their jobs to guard and recover the owl, because political appointees in Washington unjustly removed its protection,” said Daniel Patterson, an ecologist and Southwest director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility in Tucson. “The lovable cactus pygmy owl is more endangered than ever, and should be protected again now before it’s too late.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service also refused to consider the fact that the quickly disappearing Arizona population constitutes the last U.S. population of the western subspecies of cactus ferruginous pygmy owl. Instead, it falsely assumed that Texas and Arizona birds belong to the same subspecies.

The pygmy-owl population in Arizona is perilously small and has declined from 41 birds in 1999 to fewer than 30 birds in recent years. Rampant urban sprawl has contributed to the near-extirpation of pygmy owls in northwest Tucson, where only one individual was found in 2006. Likewise, in northern Sonora, surveys demonstrate that pygmy owls have declined by 26 percent since 2000.

“The U.S. is poised to lose yet another species with the imminent disappearance of the pygmy owl. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for ensuring the continued survival of all native species, so it is unthinkable that they would let this one fall by the wayside,” said Jason Rylander, of Defenders of Wildlife.

To date, the Bush administration has only protected 60 species of plants, animals, and fish, compared to 522 species protected during the Clinton administration and 231 during the elder Bush’s tenure. Under the administration, the Fish and Wildlife Service had not protected a single U.S. species for 735 days. The recent polar bear listing broke this unprecedented streak. This is by far the longest period without a new species being protected since the landmark federal law was passed, surpassing even James Watt, who, under President Reagan, in 1981 and 1982 went 382 days without listing a species.

“The Bush administration’s willingness to let the pygmy owl go extinct in Arizona is characteristic of its contempt for the nation’s endangered species,” said Greenwald. “This administration has protected the fewest number of species of any administration since the Endangered Species Act was passed, by far. It has denied protection to species at an unprecedented rate.”

- adapted from CBD

Monday, May 19, 2008

Council wise to have department bosses live in city

Put the 'City' back in City Hall

TUCSON -- The city council is right in moving toward requiring new city department heads to live within city limits, and should vote to approve the proposal at this week's meeting.

Working at high levels for the City of Tucson but living in Oro Valley is like a General Motors executive driving a Hyundai. It's a bad image and defeatist message to everyone.

I respect the department heads, but if they want to help run the city, and get paid by city taxpayers three times what the average Tucsonan makes, then they should show a true commitment to live in Tucson and experience it 24/7 with their constituents. It's not the same when they retreat to the suburbs each afternoon, weekend and holiday.

Department heads are more in touch when they and their families actually live in the city they work for. There are plenty of talented qualified people who already live in the city or are willing to move in. Tucson is a decent place to live.

Given the justified concern about the city manager and two-thirds of the current high-paid department heads living outside city limits, the council may want to expand the proposal to give them some time to move in to Tucson, or accept a significant penalty or different job. If they prefer to live in the suburbs, fine, but they shouldn't expect to run a big part of a city they refuse to even live in.

Requiring new department heads to live in Tucson is a fair move by the council that should be approved and enforced. Bureaucrats may not like it, but it's a good policy for the public-interest.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Richardson, scientists rejected on pro-wolf request

Mexican wolf recovery hurt by feds killing for livestock lobby

SILVER CITY NM -- This week, the interagency Mexican wolf reintroduction team refused New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s request to suspend and ultimately change the controversial wolf removal policy known as SOP 13, the rule that requires the permanent removal from the wild of any wolf involved in three fatal livestock depredation incidents over a one-year period.

These trappings and shootings disrupt the wolves’ highly structured family groups, separate mated pairs, and can leave pups without parents. They also reduce the genetic diversity of a population based on only seven founding animals.

Instead of honoring Richardson’s request and the recommendations of scientists, the Mexican Wolf Adaptive Management Oversight Committee proposed merely a “clarification” of SOP 13. The new revision states that if “intentional attraction or repeated knowing attraction of wolves contributed or likely contributed to causing a confirmed wolf depredation,” then the wolves will not be penalized for that depredation.

Seventeen conservation groups, including Southwest PEER, responded to the clarification with a letter requesting a complete cessation of government wolf removals and noted that the new clarification “is a completely unenforceable provision, which depends on managers’ knowledge of livestock owners’ intentions or of their awareness.”

The letter also noted the unanimity among scientists that predator control against the Mexican wolf must be suspended in order to reach the reintroduction project’s goal of at least 100 wolves including 18 breeding pairs in the wild, a goal that was intended to be achieved by the end of 2006. The end-of-2007 population count revealed 52 wolves including just three breeding pairs.

“This ‘clarification’ is lipstick on a pig,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the 17 conservation and animal protection organizations that responded with a forceful letter requesting a cessation of government wolf removals. “This deeply flawed policy isn’t working to recover wolves and the clarification won’t either.”

The American Society of Mammalogists and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (which manages the captive population of Mexican wolves) have called for suspending SOP 13 and halting wolf removals. In addition, nine eminent scientists, including retired Mexican wolf recovery coordinator David Parsons, geneticist Philip Hedrick, and Mexican Wolf Three-Year Review lead-author Paul Paquet, wrote to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to call attention to the disastrous effects of wolf removals.

“Recovering the Mexican wolf is possible if the government would listen to the scientists,” said Stephen Capra of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.

The letter also notes that the clarification does not nearly suffice to protect wolves from the consequences of scavenging on livestock carcasses, as scientists have called for.

Said Robinson: “Cattle carcasses that die of non-wolf causes on the national forests will still be allowed to stay out there instead of being removed, inducing wolves to prey on stock. Ultimately this will lead back to the government shooting and trapping the wolves.”

Mexican gray wolves are endangered because of a previous U.S. government predator control program that poisoned and trapped wolves and dug pups from their dens, eliminating the species from the Southwest by the early 1930s.

Starting in 1950, the Fish and Wildlife Service sent its salaried personnel and government-produced poisons to the Republic of Mexico to duplicate that program. This resulted in the killing of all but a few wolves in Mexico that were captured alive and, after passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, served as the seed source for an emergency captive-breeding program. The reintroduction program began in 1998 using the progeny of seven of those last survivors.

“Government extermination at the behest of the livestock industry has already happened once. We can't let it happen again,” said Greta Anderson, Arizona director of the Western Watersheds Project. “These policies are a scary deja vu.”

Friday, May 16, 2008

Fed gov't trusting big oil to protect arctic wildlife

Industry permit plans not subjected to required peer-review or monitoring

WASHINGTON -- Federal agencies issued permits for oil exploration in vast areas of the Arctic Ocean without verifying industry claims or imposing required safeguards against damage to wildlife, according to agency e-mails released this week by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Intense political pressure to speed Arctic leasing coupled with tardy industry submission of any data resulted in official rubber-stamping of permit applications without review or plans for follow-up.

The permits relate to how much adverse effect from exploration activities may occur on marine mammals, particularly whales. The principal concern is noise from industry use of powerful seismic air-guns, high intensity sonar and explosives detonations in its search for promising geology on the sea floor.

By regulation, the permits called Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs) and geological & geophysical (G&G) exploration, must have detailed plans for monitoring and reporting, including independent peer-review of proposed monitoring plans to ensure the reliability of industry representations. Yet, according to agency e-mails, these requirements were set aside in the rush to get permits approved in time for oil companies to take advantage of the 2008 “open water” season, when the Arctic ice recedes enough for ship traffic.

In one December 26, 2007 e-mail to colleagues, Jill Lewandowski, a Protected Species Biologist at Minerals Management Service (MMS) Headquarters in Washington D.C., wrote:

“As you see, Section 9(e) includes the requirement for the peer review. However, the report was not completed for the 2007 Open Water meeting…Therefore, the requirement under 9(e) was not met at the 2007 Open Water meeting and continues to be unmet… MMS has not, to date, had any involvement in reviewing or commenting on contents of this report and our involvement is noticeably absent…So, where do we go from here? No one has surplus time, and we are all under the gun.”

“In essence, our federal agencies are saying to the oil companies, ‘don’t worry about monitoring what you do, we trust you,’’’ stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting the agencies still lack any capability to determine the effects of seismic and other exploratory activities on threatened wildlife, including the newly listed polar bear. “Standing orders in Alaska are that no permit may be delayed, let alone denied, regardless of the reason."

On May 5, 2008, a coalition of conservation and Alaska native groups sued federal agencies on precisely this absence of required environmental verifications in exploratory permits. This latest suit is one of a number that have been filed against the Bush administration effort to open millions of square miles of the Chukchi, Beaufort and Bering Seas to petroleum development before the end of year.

“Seismic drumbeats may drive wildlife populations completely out of the exploration areas before anyone has an opportunity to find out,” Ruch concluded. “This is a race against the clock and the oil companies have already lapped their so-called regulators.”

- from PEER.org

Grijalva or Baca for next US Interior Secretary?

Interior badly needs new leadership

UPDATE, Nov 08: Baca has signaled he is not interested.

TUCSON -- Like many Americans, my family and I are anticipating brighter days for America starting next January. As part of contemplating a better future, I'm considering who should fill the important positions in our federal government which are in dire need of help after 8 years of Bush/Cheney corruption.

Working with public employees in the energy and environmental field, I deal a lot with US Interior Department agencies like the National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Fish & Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management.

Caught in seemingly endless scandal during this administration, Interior is in very bad shape and desperately needs house cleaning and strong ethical leadership to restore public trust and employee morale.

Just as people are talking about who would be a good VP pick, on this Endangered Species Day I suggest two proven leaders from the west for Interior Secretary.

Jim Baca, New Mexico's Natural Resources Trustee, former BLM Director and Albuquerque Mayor.

Raul Grijalva, Congressman from Arizona and Chairman of the US House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

I expect Obama to be our next President, and both men are Obama supporters, but Clinton or McCain would also be wise to ask either Jim Baca or Raul Grijalva to serve our nation as Secretary of the Interior.

Grijalva is a great Congressman and he'd have to leave the House, which he understandably may not want to do. I would be sad to lose Grijalva as our Congressman, but excited about the progress he could help bring our nation and the world as America's top environmental steward.

Let me be clear that my recommendations here are pure speculation and wishful thinking. I'm not sure either one of them would want the job, but Baca or Grijalva as Interior Secretary would help restore the public interest to public natural resources.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Climate efforts backed by Gov with HB 2017 veto

The legislature should support, not block, energy improvements

PHOENIX -- In a wise move clearly in the public interest, Governor Napolitano (D) has vetoed HB 2017, calling it 'micromanagement'.

The Gov's move keeps alive existing efforts for 'clean cars', needed energy and efficiency gains, and Arizona's participation with other states and Canada in the Western Climate Initiative.

Republic joins me supporting law enforcement bill

SB 1167 will help rangers protect our natural heritage

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Republic today says 'Protect our desert' in favor of passing SB 1167, the off-road vehicle, trails management, safety and law enforcement bill I've been working on and supporting.

The Legislature should pass SB 1167, a bi-partisan compromise bill with broad support. It is good step toward better handling growing off-road vehicle and related crime problems across Arizona.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Patterson for State Rep qualifies for ballot (D-LD29)

I will help improve Arizona's future

TUCSON -- The Daniel Patterson for State Representative campaign turned in voters' signatures today and qualified for the ballot in Legislative District 29.

Our campaign is financially strong and will finish collecting clean elections donations by the end of the month, then qualify for clean elections funding shortly thereafter.

I'm in to win, to solve problems, help people and build bridges for change.

I'm running to help education, the economy, health care, the environment and other concerns because I love Tucson, and I'm optimistic about Arizona's future with new leaders in the State House.

I have a proven track record of positive public service in Tucson and LD29.

I'm confident about this race, and will continue to campaign hard. I thank our supporters and ask for your vote in the primary.

"Daniel Patterson has leadership experience and a true commitment on issues that concern all of us. It is seldom that we are so fortunate to have such a strong candidate as Daniel," says Patterson campaign Hon. Chair Elaine Richardson, retired Arizona Senator and Gov. Napolitano cabinet member. "Daniel is an intelligent, hard-working man. He will bring positive values to the Legislature and serve his constituents and the State of Arizona well. Daniel Patterson will help change the tone at the State Capitol. He will serve the public interest, not special interests."

"…I can attest to the fact that Daniel is a strong and resounding voice for all of us who live here. Daniel cares about children and the future issues they may face," says Mary C. Rogers, TUSD teacher and LD29 voter.

MORE COVERAGE, 5/15: Politicker AZ

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

BLM protects part of desert monument from ORVs

BLM is taking an important first step for monument conservation

UPDATE: 5/17, letter in Republic. 5/15, Arizona Republic editorial on this and SB 1167 in the AZ Legislature. 5/14, In addition to the front page story in the Arizona Republic, this good news is covered in USA Today, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson Citizen, the San Diego Union-Tribune and many broadcast outlets. Also, BLM published the full protective order in today's Federal Register.

TUCSON -- I'm proud to be involved in cooperatively helping public employees protect a large part of the Sonoran Desert National Monument from off-road vehicle traffic for at least two years or more, to help damaged landscapes recover from the environmental toll of growing motorized abuse.

Agency e-mails released this week by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) confirm the action. This would be the first long-term ORV ban on BLM public lands in Arizona due to natural resource damage.

Under orders to be published this week in the Federal Register, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages the monument, will declare nearly 55,000 acres (approximately four times the land area of Manhattan) off-limits to all ORV traffic for “up to two years or more, depending on the restoration success,” according to the acting monument manager. An estimated 90 miles of ORV routes will also be closed to motorized use. This no-ORV zone lies southeast of the North Maricopa Mountains wilderness.

“BLM is taking a good first step toward protecting the Sonoran Desert National Monument from off-road excess,” stated Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, an ecologist who formerly worked with BLM. “It is the first of what likely will be many more ORV bans to shield public lands that cannot handle the growing motorized traffic and are literally being ripped apart.”

Located between Phoenix and Tucson, the nearly half-million acre Sonoran Desert National Monument is part of BLM's National Landscape Conservation System and includes some of the most scenic and biologically rich desert lands in North America. The Monument has also seen an exponential increase in ORV traffic that, by BLM’s own admission, is beyond its ability to effectively manage. Damage to its lands has reached the point where, last year, agency officials suggested a monument-wide prohibition on ORV use.

Unfortunately, the deteriorating situation at the Sonoran Desert National Monument is becoming prevalent on public lands across the West. Beyond the environmental toll, off-road vehicles are now, by far, the number one law enforcement problem on federal lands in the Southwest, according to agency statistics compiled by PEER and Rangers for Responsible Recreation. Increasingly, agencies such as the BLM and U.S. Forest Service are overwhelmed by the sheer number of off-roaders, widespread disregard for agency route restrictions and the enormous, cumulative damage inflicted on the landscapes.

For the Sonoran Desert National Monument, the length of the ORV-ban and the restoration criteria will be much scrutinized. The Federal Register notice will spell out those terms and go into effect 30 days later, sometime in mid-June.

“This protective order is long overdue, and two years will likely not be enough time to heal the land from the extensive ORV damage.” added Patterson. "This is a good move, but BLM must do more to truly manage the Sonoran Desert and other monuments for conservation, rather than for how much abuse they can withstand."

Don Hood, vice president of the Arizona Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition, said his organization understands that a lot of damage has occurred in the desert area south of Phoenix.

“The explosion of off-highway vehicles has led to an increase of people out there who think this is just a game,” Hood said. “They don't know the rules, they don't know where to go, they don't know right from wrong...”

Those who violate the order by heading into the closed area with a motor vehicle could face a $1,000 fine and up to one year in prison, said Pamela Mathis, public-affairs specialist for the BLM.

Congress is investigating ORV abuses and related problems on America's lands. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), representing a district that includes the Sonoran Desert National Monument, held the first ever US House oversight hearings on ORVs in March. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) will hold similar oversight hearings in the US Senate June 5.

Call 623.580.5566 to volunteer and help BLM monitor and implement these protections on your public lands.

People want green energy, not Sempra 'Powerlink'

CPUC should say no to Sempra's SDGE 'Sunrise Powerlink' push

BORREGO SPRINGS CA -- Some energy and environment news from the western edges of the Sonoran Desert.

Yesterday was an unprecedented day for the San Diego Smart Energy Solutions Campaign to protect Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the BLM California Desert Conservation Area, the Cleveland National Forest and local communities from the unnecessary, devastating Sunrise Powerlink.

Nearly 650 activists packed the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Public Hearing in Borrego Springs to tell the Commissioners that we have smarter energy alternatives than the Sunrise Powerlink. But this wasn't just any hearing - for the first time, four of the five Commissioners from the CPUC, the direct decision makers, came to San Diego County to hear from the community. And the community responded. I was inspired to see that Sunrise Powerlink opponents outnumbered supporters by an incredible eight to one!

During the hearing, young and old alike testified that local communities and protected open spaces are too precious to lose to an unnecessary, fossil-fueled proposal that does nothing to deliver renewable energy or reduce global warming greenhouse gases. Each told a unique story, but all shared the common theme that this project is a step backward for San Diego when we know there are cleaner, reliable alternatives that will boost our local economy and minimize fire risk.

Although we have passed a significant milestone, our battle is not over. Stay tuned to learn how you can continue to take action to keep our local communities, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, CDCA and the Cleveland National Forest safe from this unnecessary proposal.

Many thanks to those who volunteered and attended the CPUC Hearing. Because of your hard work, the Commissioners heard from the public loud and clear - there are smarter energy alternatives than the unnecessary, damaging Sunrise Powerlink!

- adapted from Micah

For more on this topic, please click the 'Energy and Nature' link under the links section on this blog.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Political energy: candidates warm to 'clean coal'

Mountain top removal coal mining in West Virginia

TUCSON -- Amid bad news today from the Arizona Legislature on global warming pollution, the pro-coal politics in West Virginia from Dems Obama and Clinton are understandable in a Presidential primary, but still frustrating.

Not surprisingly, Republican McCain also favors so-called 'clean coal', which is right now an unproven myth that may never become feasible.

I favor more solar, wind and clean alternatives, less coal. We have a responsibility to future generations.

Arizona, West Virginia and America can and must have an energy revolution, and lead the transition toward good green jobs.

PEER, others push Bush OSC man Bloch to resign

Scott Bloch, part of the Bush/GOP 'culture of corruption'

WASHINGTON -- 'Fair government' advocates, including my organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, are pushing for Bush/Cheney's controversial head of the Office of Special Counsel, Scott J. Bloch, to resign.

Bloch is supposed to protect government whistleblowers, but has demonstrated political bias, obstruction of justice, mismanagement and other serious problems. Bloch is now under FBI investigation.

Working for fairness and justice everyday can be very tough, especially during this administration, but it's great to see the public-interest beat the bad guys every now and then.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Grijalva thanked, supported as eco justice champ

Rep. Grijalva is Chairman of the US House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands

TUCSON -- Arizona conservationists and others joined with US Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and his wife Ramona Grijalva downtown this morning to support the Congressman's re-election, and his outstanding work to help people, the environment and common good.

Turnout was solid and the atmosphere positive and optimistic about the future direction of America.

My family and I are proud to be truly represented on Capitol Hill by Congressman Grijalva.

Developers get free pass, we'd get $43B road tax

Connie Wilhelm, queen of urban sprawl, wants you to pay for more sprawl so rich developers can get richer and pay nothing

PHOENIX -- The Governor's office has unwisely entered an unfair deal with Connie Wilhelm of the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona, and other developers, to let them pay zero and get off the hook on needed impact fees, while us taxpayers would be shaken down for over $42.6 billion through higher sales taxes, to subsidize new roads to enable more unsustainable urban sprawl.

Unacceptably, transit would get 600% less in the road dominated plan, and sales taxes would be near 10% for most Arizonans.

The regressive sales tax boost that hurts low income people most, like many in LD29, was reason alone to say 'no!' to this lame plan. The sweetheart corporate welfare free pass for developers is reason to say 'no and hell no!'.

So much for following the clear will of the people that development start to pay for itself. That has been ignored with this unwise give-away to corporations.

Read the perspective of many below on our declining quality of life due to developer driven road and car-centric planning, which the higher sales tax plan offers more of the same.

Re: the May 6 article "As Ariz. degrades, folks may leave."

Thank you for the story. After graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in math, I am planning on moving out of Arizona after 25 years here.

Growth here has been handled very poorly and there is no indication, given the Interstate 10 bypass plans, and the imminent Grant Road widening project, that this is going to change.

As a native, I love the heat and the natural beauty of the state, but I'm tired of living in a place built for cars rather than for people.

Maybe I'll be back after the state becomes livable for those who would rather not drive 20 miles a day.

James Portwood, Tucson
AZ Daily Star, 5/10/08

The Legislature was right to not put this bad proposal on the ballot. So developer-paid professional petition hucksters will be out soon asking you to raise your already high sales taxes to pay for more roads while developers pay nothing. They won't present it in that honest way, of course. Don't be fooled. Just say no. Don't sign.

I respect and like Governor Janet Napolitano, but this unjust deal stinks and should be rejected. If her office must stoop so low to move this roads plan, it is just another strong indication of many that this is the wrong plan at the wrong time. Voters have the power to send it down in flames, and I predict we will.

Sadly, it appears Pat Graham and the Nature Conservancy, which has been known to sometimes make bad political deals, may have a hand in this to buy neutrality from developers on a modest first step proposal for State Lands reform. I hope this deal doesn't also end up tainting the supportable State Lands proposal.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Optimistic talking with students about leadership

Kids' future is our future

TUCSON -- As a community leader and part of my job as Ecologist and SW PEER Director, I was an invited expert guest speaker today and spoke with public school students in LD29.

We talked for over an hour mostly about energy, nature, fairness, responsibility and leading for change in Arizona and the world.

These students live in tough neighborhoods, much like mine. They were impressive, smart and especially interested in science. I was proud to listen and share my experience with them, and encouraged about our future due to their enthusiasm.

More bad McCain political land deals for his pals

McCain money man, Tempe-based developer Steve Betts

PRESCOTT -- First it was John McCain's political favors involving national public land and Don Diamond in Pima County.

Arizona conservationists have known about and fought McCain's scams for years. But now there is new national news about McCain pushing National Forest land deals to benefit rich Scottsdale doctor and public lands hobby rancher/developer Fred Ruskin, and wealthy developer/big McCain campaign contributor Steve Betts and his SunCor Corporatation, to enable the huge controversial Yavapai Ranch development which threatens open space and the Verde River in northern Arizona.

McCain helped Fred Ruskin, doctor/developer/hobby rancher, make a killing by privatizing high value Forest Service land for him

Development and urban sprawl doesn't just happen, sometimes it happens on your public lands that were privatized for friends of uncaring DC-insider politicians like John McCain.

Don't believe the hype and spin. John McCain is no 'good government maverick', he's just as corrupt as most in Washington, perhaps even more so.

RELATED NEWS: More McCain land scam aid in Las Vegas for Del Webb Corporation.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Research: ORVs add pollution, warming, health risk

Polluting for 'fun' hurts kids

SAN DIEGO -- Motorized off-road vehicle use in California releases as much greenhouse gas as burning 500,000 barrels of oil each year — equivalent to more than 1.5 million car trips from San Francisco to Los Angeles — according to an important report released this week.

Fuel to Burn: The Climate and Public Health Implications of Off-Road Vehicle Pollution in California is the first report to assess the impacts of off-road vehicle use on human health and global climate change. The report shows that if left unchecked, emissions from off-road vehicles will continue to skyrocket. It recommends that the state of California ensure that emissions from this source are reduced at the same pace as other sources.

“Off-road vehicles release the same greenhouse gases as your car and emit significantly more pollution. Their impact cannot continue to be ignored,” said biologist Chris Kassar, a co-author of the report. “To meet its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting public health, the state of California must address this growing source of pollution.”

The report found: Recreational off-road vehicles — including dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles, and snowmobiles — consume 26 million gallons of gasoline each year in California. This is equivalent to the amount of gasoline used for 1.5 million car trips from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

-- Pollution from off-road vehicles in California has doubled in the past 15 years. Some off-road vehicles emit as much pollution in a single hour as more than 30 automobiles operating for the same period.

-- The state of California is facilitating the increasing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from off-road recreation by providing financial support and permits to federal land-management agencies that encourage off-road recreation on their lands.

California has among the poorest air quality in the nation and is home to 13 of 20 counties nationwide most at risk of adverse health impacts from smog. Off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles produce 118 times as much smog-forming pollution as modern cars on a per-mile basis.

In Imperial County, which has among the state’s highest childhood asthma rates, off-road vehicles are a leading contributor to the region’s poor air quality. Much of southern California's bad air blows in to Yuma and western Arizona, harming citizens there. Still, California continues to exempt the most polluting off-road vehicles from state air-quality laws.

“Because of the significant pollution caused by off-road vehicles, a reduction in emissions will have important health benefits for Californians,” said Monique Lopez of the Clean Air Initiative.

The report urges the state to address the twin goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting public health by immediately addressing the pollution and emissions from off-road vehicles.

Recommendations include: Consistent with the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) and a gubernatorial executive order, reducing emissions from off-road vehicles to at least 1990 levels by 2020 with further reductions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

-- Requiring that federal agencies applying for state funding and permits are adequately addressing the greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution associated with off-road vehicle use.

-- Eliminating loopholes that allow continued use of polluting off-road vehicles that fail to meet state emission standards; and Rejecting federal permit applications for continued or expanded off-road vehicle use on public lands in areas that do not meet air-quality standards.

I'm for Obama, but why should Clinton quit now?

Know when to fold 'em

TUCSON -- I voted for Sen. Barack Obama and have been actively supporting his campaign for President. I'm glad to see him starting to pull away after winning North Carolina and coming very close in Indiana.

I also agree with Obama's classy statements that when and if Hillary Clinton drops out of the race is entirely up to her. She has earned that respect and right.

Imagine if you had worked so hard on the campaign of your life. You wouldn't drop out until the end was certain. Even though it's looking very likely she can't win the nomination, in politics and much of life, 'it ain't over 'til it's over'. We may not be used to long messy primaries, but this is what democracy looks like.

Although I wouldn't be surprised to see her quit soon, as long as the negative campaigning stops, Clinton staying in the race should not hurt Obama.

I do have one concern, it's being reported today that Obama will declare victory May 20. I understand his desire to do so, but if Clinton is still in, rushing to declare victory could be a mistake that would spark a harmful new fight Democrats don't need.

Democrats and Obama supporters, let's follow Obama's lead and focus on beating McCain, not beating up on Hillary Clinton.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

No advertising on this independent minded blog

No sale

TUCSON -- As you may have noticed, there are no ads on my blog. I'm proud of that. I get solicitations all the time, but don't consider them.

To me, it's best to stay free of advertising to keep commercialism out for a truly free and independent political blog.

I have no problem with bloggers who feature ads, that's their choice. It's just not my style.

My readers deserve an ad free experience here to allow some escape from a world full of constant advertising.

Go laugh with Jim Hightower to support Pima Dems

True American patriot Jim Hightower

TUCSON -- This Thursday evening, the Pima County Democrats are bringing America's #1 populist to town, Jim Hightower.

You don't want to miss this. Jim is very funny. I've worked with him before in support of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Jim will discuss and sign his latest book: Swim Against the Current, Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow. Thursday, May 8 discussion and book signing at 7pm at The Cabaret at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott, downtown.

Jim is a syndicated columnist, national radio commentator, publisher of the "Hightower Lowdown" newsletter, and the New York Times bestselling author of Thieves in High Places. Jim Hightower has picked up some useful advice over the years, from "never eat at a café featuring 'bargain kebobs'" to "never hit a man with glasses; hit him with something much heavier." As he’s rambled through America, however, he’s also come up with more serious words of wisdom to share, namely: question authority, trust your values, stand up for your beliefs and swim against the current!

Jim’s new book introduces people in business, politics, health care, religion and other areas who are doing just that and making a difference. This uplifting book offers inspiration and information to help readers tap into their potential and navigate a different, more satisfying course of their own.

You won't want to miss Jim's wit and wisdom—especially when you can help local Democrats at the same time.

Tickets at Antigone Books (411 N. 4th Ave.) or by calling Democratic HQ at 520-326-3716.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

AZ OKs cleaner car program to reduce pollution

Biodiesel power is one 'clean car' solution

TUCSON -- When not on my bike or walking, I love our clean car, an efficient yet powerful VW TDI that runs on B100 biodiesel.

So I'm glad to pass along good news that today in Phoenix the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council approved adoption of a final rule to implement a California Low Emission Vehicle “Clean Car” program in Arizona by a vote of 5 to 2. This makes Arizona the fourteenth state in the country to adopt this standard.

At least 13 other states have adopted Clean Car Standards, including Arizona’s neighbors, California and New Mexico. Under the Clean Car Rule, each automobile manufacturer is required to demonstrate that its fleet of passenger cars and light-duty trucks delivered for sale in Arizona on or after January 1, 2011, meets an average emissions standard for greenhouse gases. It will reduce global warming greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles by about 32 million metric tons from 2012 to 2020 and will also reduce pollutants that contribute to ground-level ozone formation, a major issue in Arizona. Implementation of the rule is expected to reduce 5,505 tons of carbon monoxide, 892 tons of hydrocarbons, and 1,436 tons of oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) in 2018.

“Most of Arizona’s pollution comes from cars and trucks, and about 39 percent of Arizona’s greenhouse gas emissions also come from vehicles,” said Sandy Bahr, conservation outreach director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “With our rapid growth and an increase in miles traveled that outpaces that growth, our emissions could grow by as much as 200 percent from 1990 to 2020. That is totally unacceptable. This Clean Car Rule will help us reduce emissions, clean up the air and help do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Phoenix area has a serious ozone problem that is at its worst during the hot summer months. Ozone is formed when sunlight reacts with volatile organic compounds emitted from vehicles, industry, and other sources. Transportation is the number one contributor to ozone pollution. Because of the weather patterns, areas in the northeast valley such as Fountain Hills suffer most from this pollution. In 2005, there were 30 exceedances of the federal health standard for ozone. Pima County, Yuma and other parts of the state also have growing air pollution risks. Arizona recently received another failing grade from the American Lung Association of Arizona for ozone pollution.

This Clean Car Rule will not be onerous nor decimate the automobile industry as some manufacturers have indicated, and it will not mean that everyone must buy a hybrid vehicle. The technology – outside of hybrid technology – already exists for cars and trucks to meet these standards. Other measures that can help vehicles meet the standards include direct injection, advanced valve control, downsized engines with turbo, electric accessories, integrated starter generators, and automatic manual transmissions, among others.

Giffords wise to push for solar tax credit until 2016

Solar power on a rooftop in Pima County

TUCSON -- The US government boosted the Investment Tax Credit from 10 percent to 30 percent for solar systems in 2006, meaning that 30 percent of the cost of building and installing a system is returned to the investor in the form of a tax credit. But that rate is set to expire at the end of 2008. That scenario worries many political, business, and academic leaders here, who see their dreams of a solar-energy hub evaporating.

"The extension of the tax credit is critical," says US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) of Arizona. "I've introduced legislation to extend it to 2016."

Representative Giffords is urging that the government pay for the extension by reducing tax credits to oil and gas companies. During "the next five years, [oil and gas companies] are slated to receive about $17 billion. That money instead should be going toward renewable energy," she says. "It is critical, and I believe Democrats and Republicans acknowledge it."

read the full story

Monday, May 05, 2008

Forest Service access tax challenged in AZ & CO

This land is your land. Stop the HIRA tax rip-off.

UPDATE, 5/15: Tucson Weekly article.

TUCSON -- During these tough economic times, two public-interest legal actions to protect working people were filed this week in Tucson and Denver. In the federal court filings, the plaintiffs detail how the U.S. Forest Service is exceeding the scope of its legal authority by charging fees that violate several provisions of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA).

The fee programs are at Mt Lemmon on the Coronado National Forest near Tucson, and Mt Evans on the Arapaho National Forest west of Denver.

The FLREA prohibits the Forest Service from charging fees, also known as the Recreation Access Tax or RAT, for parking, undeveloped camping, or scenic overlooks. The law also forbids fees for hiking, horseback riding, or driving through National Forest land without using any facilities or services.

In the Tucson case, four plaintiffs are challenging the designation a of one-half mile strip on either side of the 28-mile Catalina Highway to the summit of Mt Lemmon as a type of fee area called a High Impact Recreation Area, or HIRA. The term HIRA does not appear in the fee law, only in Forest Service policy. Along the highway are some developed campgrounds and picnic areas. But there are also undeveloped trailheads, and numerous trails leading into the backcountry, including the 56,933-acre Pusch Ridge Wilderness, that are devoid of any amenities. There are also at least three undeveloped primitive camping areas.

In spite of the prohibitions in the law against fees for parking, hiking, and undeveloped camping, within the Mt Lemmon HIRA the Coronado National Forest charges a $5 fee for all activities except stopping at developed scenic overlooks or non-stop travel to private property. The fee applies even to those who merely park at an undeveloped trailhead and hike into the backcountry.

"The Coronado National Forest is unethically violating the intent and language of the law by expanding fees to undeveloped places, including Mt Bigelow where there are no 'improvements' and fees previously were never charged," said Daniel Patterson, an ecologist and family man. "Working people and families should not be taxed extra to visit their undeveloped public lands, especially in these tough economic times. Congress wanted to end these bureaucratic abuses when it passed the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act in 2004, but the Bush administration ignores the law and the fee shakedown has become worse. The Forest Service's Mt Lemmon HIRA is a rip-off that the courts and congress should stop immediately."

In the Mt Evans case, the Arapaho National Forest requires a $10 HIRA fee to stop anywhere along Colorado State Highway 5, including trailheads into the Mt Evans Wilderness and the numerous scenic overlooks adjacent to the road. Only non-stop travel is allowed for free, despite the language in the law specifically prohibiting fees for parking and overlooks.

The Colorado suit also charges that the Forest Service is exceeding its authority by enforcing federal law on property owned by the City of Denver at Summit Lake Park. The park, located partway up the mountain, is owned by Denver although surrounded by National Forest. The Arapaho National Forest enforces their HIRA fee within the park even though it is not federal land.

In addition, both cases charge the Forest Service with violating the plaintiffs' First and Fifth Amendment rights.

The plaintiffs in the Arizona suit are ecologist Daniel Patterson, AZ No-Fee activists Gaye Adams and Greg Lewis, and Christine Wallace, who was convicted and fined $100 in September for failure to pay $5 to park and go for a hike. In the Wallace case, the government dropped one of two charges a few days before the trial. The charge that was dropped was the one that would have created the basis for an appeal.

The Colorado plaintiffs are hiker and outdoorsman David Scherer and Elderlaw attorney John Licht. Both cases are being handled by attorney Mary Ellen Barilotti, who defended Wallace in her criminal case.

Barilotti said the class action complaints, which will be heard in civil court, are the only avenue for obtaining a definitive ruling on whether the Forest Service has overstepped its authority. "In every case where a criminal defendant has pleaded not guilty and gone to trial, the charges that are legally questionable have been dropped, often at the last minute," she said. "That keeps the legal issues from being fully explored and allows the Forest Service to continue their fee programs without challenge."

The plaintiffs are suing as representives of all members of the public who may have been charged fees illegally. Additional plaintiffs can be added to the cases, and Barilotti encouraged those who may want to participate to speak up. "One of the remedies we're seeking is the return of all money that has been improperly paid. If you visit these fee areas, save your receipts. You might eventually get a refund."

Western Slope No-Fee Coalition President Kitty Benzar applauded the plaintiffs. "It's not quick, easy, or cheap to stand up for your rights in court," she said. "But this is the only way to establish once and for all that Congress never intended for every person who visits public lands to have to pay. The Forest Service is not above the law, and I hope these cases will succeed."


More coverage: John C. Scott show on 5/7 on this and my campaign for State Rep.; New West; Tucson Citizen; Arizona Daily Star; Courthouse News