A state utility regulator is lashing out at the head of the Department of Environmental Quality for agreeing to settle a pollution claim with money for one of Gov. Janet Napolitano's pet projects.
Gary Pierce of the Arizona Corporation Commission said any money paid by Honeywell International Inc. for environmental projects should go to help the community most harmed. In this case, he said, it should be the parts of Phoenix where the groundwater was polluted by various hazardous chemicals, including cleaning solvents and jet fuel.
Instead, the $1 million the company provided for a "supplemental environmental project" will help fund the Western Climate Initiative, the organization formed by several governors and Canadian provincial leaders, including Gov. Janet Napolitano, to craft a regional "cap and trade" program to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
"I can see no justification for diverting these funds from the local community," wrote Pierce, a member of the Arizona Corporation Commission, in a letter to DEQ Director Steve Owens and Attorney General Terry Goddard, whose agency helped negotiate the Honeywell deal. The letter was made public Thursday.
But Owens, a Napolitano appointee, said reducing greenhouse gas emissions aids Arizona's environment because it slows climate change.
"The overwhelming majority of scientists, certainly the governor of this state, the governors of many states, many scientists including the EPA itself believe that climate change is real, there are human contributions to climate change, and that any actions you take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are important and will reduce climate change," Owens said. "That's kind of a no-brainer."
Pierce, a Republican, dismissed those arguments as irrelevant.
"You may personally believe that global climate change poses great risks to our society and that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is critical to ensuring the longevity and well-being of our species," he said in the letter to Owens who, like Napolitano and Goddard, is a Democrat.
But he claimed that DEQ guidelines and those of the federal Environmental Protection Agency require that these projects "be based on existing laws and regulations, not future, wished-for ones." And he said Arizona currently has no laws or rules that regulate carbon dioxide emissions - at least not the kind of "cap and trade" proposal on industrial pollution the Western Climate Initiative is crafting.
"If you want to work to change that policy, fine," he wrote. "But it is inappropriate for you to select an SEP (supplemental environmental project) as if Arizona already had such a policy."
The deal, announced last week, requires Honeywell to pay a $5 million fine for environmental violations that may have occurred as far back as 1974, with that cash going into the state's General Fund. It also gives Honeywell immunity from future fines for any other air- or water-quality violations anywhere else that it disclosed to the state.
Honeywell denied any liability in the settlement.