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House advances messages to Congress on environmental issues

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Conservative Arizona lawmakers don’t have authority over the Keystone XL pipeline. They can’t overturn federal rules on reducing carbon emissions. They can’t change the Endangered Species Act.

But they can send a message to Congress, and that’s what they’re trying to do through several memorials on those subjects.

On Wednesday, the House Federalism and States’ Rights Committee advanced Senate concurrent memorials urging Congress to:

• support the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline connecting Canada’s oil sands with the Gulf of Mexico;

• reduce the carbon emission rules set by the Environmental Protection Agency and turn over that power to the states;

• support exempting military bases from the Endangered Species Act;

• require federal wildlife officials to post on the Internet data using in making decisions on endangered species;

Memorials act as postcards or messages stating or seeking support or opposition on various subjects.

The four memorials heard Wednesday, authored by Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, passed on votes that largely fell on party lines.

Arguing against SCM 1006, on the Keystone XL pipeline, Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, told the committee that the pipeline could have a serious impact on climate change.

“Some climate scientists have indicated that this type of of project is like game over for climate change,” she said. “You can call that hyperbole, but the bottom line is that it’s pretty serious implications and the opposite direction of where we want to move.”

Committee Chairwoman Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Gilbert, said the message is still important.

“I think it’s still important for Arizona to express our desire that going forward we still want to see this happen,” she said.

President Barack Obama vetoed the plan last month, and the U.S. Senate tried and failed to override the veto Wednesday.

On SCM 1009, which would exempt military bases from the rules and regulations of the Endangered Species Act, Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, a Navy veteran, said despite the military’s efforts to preserve endangered species sometimes it isn’t possible because of the nature of the military.

In an interview, Bahr said requiring the military to plan around endangered species is a good thing.

“I actually don’t understand why they think the military planning around endangered species is a bad thing because if you’re in a real military action you’re going to have to plan around all kinds of things,” she said.

The committee also advanced a memorial that urges Congress to amend the Endangered Species Act by creating the 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act. It would require the Secretary of the Interior or Commerce to make information readily available to the public via the Internet regarding the status of species and federal dollars used in civil actions under the ESA.

Griffin, the memorial’s author, didn’t return a phone message left with her office. During a meeting of the Senate Federalism, Mandates and Fiscal Responsibility meeting in early February, she said that cost-benefit analysis is important.

“This is just a transparency and a full-disclosure of what the costs are for the different endangered species,” she said.

Bahr said the memorial doesn’t necessarily focus on transparency.

“What they’re basically trying to do is focus on the cost of complying with the Endangered Species Act without looking at the benefits,” she said.

SCM 1013, calling for Congress to oppose the EPA’s carbon emissions-reduction rules for power plants, received “yes” votes from Reps. Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson, and Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix.

Philip Bashaw, director of government relations and grassroots advocacy for the Grand Canyon State Electric Cooperative Association Inc., told the committee that meeting the EPA’s proposed interim carbon emissions goal for 2020 would create serious consequences.

“That will mean that the state of Arizona and the utilities in that state of Arizona that provide affordable, reliable electricity to our consumers will have to shut down every coal-fired power plant within the state’s borders with the exception of those plants that are located on tribal lands,” he said.