Economic Pressure Forces Arizona to Opt Out of Climate Initiative

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As Arizona’s state legislature pulls funding for environmental initiatives, the state is looking for solutions that will simultaneously help both the economy and the environment. But those opportunities may be few and far between.

Scant rainfall and sunny weather make the state of Arizona ideal for major solar initiatives. Photo: Flickr/Al HikesAZ

“The recession hit Arizona probably as hard as anywhere in the country because so much was invested in the home-construction industry out here,” says Mark Shaffer, communications director for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. “Life here is very hard in a lot of areas right now.”

The Western Climate Initiative, of which Arizona is a member, is urging its affiliates to adopt a cap-and-trade program as one way to achieve its emission reductions goals.

But as emphasized by the large amount of money recently pulled from its recycling programs, implementing a cap-and-trade program is currently not a viable option for Arizona.

In the past, recycling programs received more than $2 million annually from the state government. But an appropriations committee from the Arizona state legislature swept away that funding for the current fiscal year. To keep some element of recycling alive, ADEQ is now relying on public-private partnerships and recycling events around the state.

Currently, the governor’s executive order is to not move forward with a cap-and-trade policy during the economic downturn, according to ADEQ Director Benjamin Grumbles, who says the state’s opt-out of the program is not synonymous with its commitment to reducing its overall impact in the future.

“I wanted to underscore that the state of Arizona remains a member of the WCI, and we believe it’s important to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to pursue pragmatic and proactive policies relating to climate change,” Grumbles says.

Arizona is heavily involved with creating green jobs. Shaffer adds that he especially sees the state’s active effort in expanding solar energy as one opportunity for Arizona to reduce its greenhouse gases and create jobs.

“There’s a lot of pressure placed on job creation, and that’s what our immediate focus is right now,” he says. “Arizona could well become the solar-center of the world because of the sunshine here year-round. There have been dozens of proposed solar projects coming down the pipe here.”

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