Arizona conservation, climate, faith and community groups have released a list of top environmental priorities they want state lawmakers to take up in the new year.
The 42 groups have asked lawmakers and the governor to address issues they say were put on the back burner by the previous state administration. They claim the delays have negatively affected the environment, the economy and Arizonans’ overall well being.
At a Tuesday news conference, Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, said lawmakers now have the opportunity to address multiple concerns.
“We can’t afford to ignore the important issues that are affecting Arizona,” she said, “including ensuring easy access to our democratic processes, acting on the climate crisis, ensuring more sustainable water policies.”
Bahr highlighted Arizona’s water-shortage problems, and said the state has over-allocated surface waters, including the Colorado River. She said Arizona is also depleting ground water, especially outside of active management areas. The groups want the Legislature to pass bills to measure and limit groundwater pumping throughout the state.
Vania Guevara, advocacy deputy director at Chispa Arizona, said more needs to be done to maximize the health of all Arizonans and address the environmental injustice that burdens some communities more than others, including Indigenous groups and people of color.
Guevara said it starts with inviting them to be part of the conversation and is asking for governing boards to do just that.
“All state agencies, boards, commissions and other public bodies involved in decisions that may affect environmental quality, adopt and implement environmental justice policies that provide meaningful opportunities for involvement of all people,” she said.
Guevara said climate change is having an outsized effect on marginalized communities in Arizona, and cited asthma rates as one example, which are higher among people of color than white Arizonans.