As the climate changes in Arizona, the political climate is drastically changing, as well. For decades, Arizona has been an undeniably red state. However, Arizona is now an important swing state. According to US News, the current party breakdown in Arizona is, “35% Republican, 33% Democrat, and 32% other.” These statistics indicate that this election could bring new candidates and new policies to Arizona after a decade of single-party rule that has been less than friendly to our environment. The outcome of this election may determine whether Arizona will protect its natural resources and diverse ecosystems for years to come or not. This article focuses on legislative districts with close Senate and House races where significant change can happen. It is important to view the records of incumbents and statements of challengers to determine where our state’s environmental policy is headed.
In swing district Legislative District 28, Representative Kelli Butler has co-sponsored a number of environmental bills. Currently, Title 49, chapter 1, article 6 limits the capacity to enforce regulations of greenhouse gas emissions. However, Representative Butler recently co-sponsored HB2766 to repeal Title 49, chapter 1, article 6 so that Arizona can regulate greenhouse gas emissions. She also co-sponsored HB2888, which would allocate $1,000,000 from the state general fund to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality for protection and enhancement of water quality. Representative Aaron Lieberman, also from LD28, hopes to encourage the renewable energy industry in Arizona by launching a Solar x Prize for innovation in battery storage. He opposed and successfully curtailed a pipeline that was initially intended to run through the Piestewa Peak Mountain Preserve. Challenger Kenneth Bowers echoes President Trump’s environmental policies, including supporting the transfer of federal land in Arizona to private ownership. If this land were removed from federal regulation, it likely would not be conserved. Jana Jackson, who has also endorsed President Trump, doesn’t address environmental policy on her webpage.
The State Senate election in Legislative District 28 is a repeat of 2018, when Christine Marsh lost to incumbent Senator Kate Brophy McGee by 267 votes. Senator McGee, who received a D rating from the Sierra Club, voted for bill SCM1008 in 2017 to increase allowable ground-level ozone levels from 70 ppb to75 ppb. She also voted for bill SCM 1001 urging the President to repeal the expanded definition of critical habitat. In addition, she voted for bill HB2686, which prevented communities from limiting the expanded use of fracked gas within their jurisdictions. Marsh intends to support strong environmental policies. According to Marsh, “Climate change is real, and we’re seeing and feeling the effects in Arizona. Protecting our water and our environment needs to be a higher priority than it has been in recent years.” She wants to encourage Arizona to invest in renewable resources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power.
Legislative District 6 encompasses Flagstaff, Payson, Snowflake, Sedona, and Camp Verde. Coral Evans, Representative Walter Blackman, and Brenda Barton are competing for the two seats in the State House. Evans testified against uranium mining in the Grand Canyon before the House Natural Resource Committee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Land while Mayor of Flagstaff. She also passed the only Climate Action and Adaptation Plan in the state of Arizona. She also invested in forest thinning projects to prevent forest fires. Rep. Blackman sponsored HB2640 in 2020, which supported businesses that manufactured, distributed, or processed environmental technology or renewable energy. Barton is not an advocate for environmental policy, voting for SCM1008 to relax regulation on ground ozone levels. She was also endorsed by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, which aims to limit regulation on natural gas and opposes the Green New Deal.
State Senate candidates in LD6 are Wendy Rogers and Felicia French. Rogers supports less federal land regulation and wants the US to return federal land to the states. “I am so glad that President Trump approved the Keystone Pipeline, opened up drilling in ANWR, and opened up offshore drilling. We must have clean coal and expand mining efforts all across the nation,” writes Wendy Rogers. French opposes fracking and uranium mining for its waste of water and contamination of soils and groundwater. As a state senator, she pledges to “put Arizona’s families before profits!”
State House candidates in Legislative District 20 are Judy Schwiebert, Shawna Bolick, and incumbent Anthony Kern. Schwiebert supports policies that ensure proper water supply, clean air, and sustainability. “We all need to take care of our environment, because if we burn down the house, nothing else matters,” states Schwiebert. If elected, Schwiebert wants to convert State-owned vehicles to electric power and provide the necessary infrastructure for people who own electric cars. She also plans to encourage the use of solar energy and supports bills SCM1008 and SCM1001. Representative Bolick’s environmental stance is murkier than Kern’s. While she did co-sponsor bill HCM2009, a bill allowing the harvesting of floodwater to be studied for drought prevention, she also voted for bill HB2749 in 2020 to make information about endangered species confidential. Bolick was listed on the 2020 Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter’s “Anti-Environmental Toxic Team.”
In Legislative District 20, Doug Ervin is running against Senator Paul Boyer for State Senate. Ervin received endorsements from the Sierra Club and the AZ Youth Climate Coalition. He supports long-term investment in renewable resources to make Arizona a leader in renewable energy. Ervin says, “Our health, our economy and our community are all impacted by climate change. I am committed to protecting the environment and preserving our natural resources.” Senator Boyer voted for the aforementioned bill SCM1001, as well as bill HB2749. In addition, Boyer received an “F” from the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter in 2020.
Legislative District 21 State House candidates are Kathy Knecht, Beverly Pingerelli and Representative Kevin Payne. The Sierra Club endorsed Knecht for the State House; one of her key issues is to protect natural resources. Representative Payne received a 14% rating by the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter and voted for bills SCM1001, SCM1008 and HB2749, all of which oppose environmental regulation. Pingerelli writes, “We must responsibly protect and preserve wild spaces and water reserves as our metropolitan areas grow, for our own well-being as well as for future generations.” However, she also has endorsed Donald Trump and his policies.
Running for State Senate in District 21 are Brian Whitman and Rick Gray. Brian Whitman wants to protect water cleanliness and incentivize Xeriscaping, a method of landscaping that reduces water waste. He also champions solar energy. Senator Gray voted for the previously mentioned bill HCR2004 in 2012 which established state sovereignty over air, water, public lands, and wildlife. He voted against bill SB1118, which established and appropriated funds for a Land Conservation Fund and a Forest Restoration and Treatment Fund. Senator Gray got a 0% rating in 2012 from the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter and in 2020, he was put on the Sierra Club’s “Anti-Environmental Toxic Team.”
Senator J.D. Mesnard, District 17, is on the Sierra Club’s “Anti-Environmental Toxic Team,” and received a 0% rating from the Arizona Chapter Sierra Club. Mesnard’s opponent Ajlan Kurdoglu plans to invest in sustainable energy and reduce the cost of renewable resources across the board in Arizona. Additionally, Kurdoglu wants to conserve land and water supplies and create policies to reduce carbon emission. Kurdoglu’s climate policy focuses on investing in science and creating more renewable energy in Arizona.
Running for the State House in Legislative District 17 are incumbents Jennifer Pawlik and Jeff Weninger, and candidate Liz Harris. Jeff Weninger received an F from The Sierra Club and is part of their “Anti-Environmental Toxic Team.” Weninger also voted in favor of HCR2015 to remove protection over public lands and HB2749 to keep information about endangered species confidential from the public. Jennifer Pawlik voted against HB2749, and sponsored bill HB2766 to regulate and reduce greenhouse gasses. Pawlik received a “B” from the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter. Liz Harris is sponsored by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club that aims to limit regulation on natural gas, and opposes the Green New Deal and other protective climate legislation.
Arizona is at a pivotal moment in political history. It is up to all of us as voters to support candidates who will enact impactful and smart environmental policies. The future is in our hands.