Chamber panel discussion focuses on environmental regulations

U.S. Sen. Martha McSally and Congressmen Greg Stanton and Andy Biggs were panelists in a special presenation by the Ahwatukee Foothills and Chandler chambers of commerce last week. (Casey Flanagan/AFN Contributor)

U.S. Sen. Martha McSally said federal plans for environmental conservation are too generalized and the push towards clean energy must be done at a state level to be truly effective.

“One-size-fits-all mandates coming from Washington really are not the way to go,” McSally said during a panel discussion with two local congressmen that was co-sponsored by the Ahwatukee Foothills and Chandler chambers of commerce.

U.S. Reps. Greg Stanton and Andy Biggs also were on the “Update from Washington” panel May 29 that represented a first for the two chambers.

McSally cited the state’s drought contingency plan as a model of localized legislation.

The plan is a conservation effort between Arizona and six adjacent states that helps to conserve and distribute water from the Colorado River Basin.

McSally said had not that agreement been reached, “there was going to be a very heavy-handed approach coming out of the federal government telling them how to deal with it.”

McSally pointed to the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States rule as examples of what she termed harmful government oversight.

The Clean Power Plan was an Obama-administration initiative to lower carbon emissions by assigning each state a target for cutting emissions.

Arizona would have been required to lower their emissions by 52 percent under the plan. Arizona sued the EPA over the plan in 2015, with the Arizona Attorney General’s office claiming that it would dramatically raise electricity bills and services.

The plan was scrapped by the EPA in 2017, but officials in Arizona vowed to keep working on lowering emissions.

The Waters of the United States rule defined which waterways were protected from pollution or obstruction under the Clean Water Act, and faced fierce criticism from the agriculture, oil, and home-building industries.

Opponents argued that it was an overreach of power and would severely harm business.

McSally commented said that for a developer or rancher with a wash running through their property, “these would be really negatively impactful.”

The event marked the second time in recent months featuring Stanton, a Democrat and former mayor of Phoenix, and Biggs, a Mesa Republican and former state legislator. Both also were the featured speakers at the East Valley Partnership’s annual Statesperson’s Luncheon in April.

Stanton suggested that the best way to protect the environment in Arizona is through stimulus packages.

He harkened back to the first bill he took part in as a freshman congressman: a block-grant that would “renovate old buildings and make them more energy efficient.”

He said that the most effective way to lower Arizona’s carbon footprint and fight climate change would be to, “pass a significant infrastructure package that does advance green technology and green thinking.”

He also called for changes in public transportation and increased infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Stanton pointed out that China is on the way to become a world-leader in renewable energy.

“That has traditionally been the United States’ leadership role; it needs to continue to be the United States’ leadership role,” he said.

China increased its capacity for renewable energy by 12 percent just in 2018, according to published reports.

Biggs criticized federal mandates for the environment, recalling how he and colleagues at the State Legislature confronted federal mandates that contained strict rules and lackluster funding.

That approach, he said, “is not going to inspire individual businesses, or quite frankly, states, to want to comply.”

Biggs also touted incentives for local businesses to adopt green technology.

He suggested a tax-credit mechanism in which “good behavior is going to get relief from the tax code.”

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