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February 8, 2010

Host: Ted Simons

BLM renewable energy land

  |   Video
  • The Bureau of Land Management will be holding hearings this month to discuss land that could be restored to make it suitable for renewable energy projects. Jim Kenna, BLM State Director, explains the project.
  • Jim Kenna - Director, Bureau of Land Management
Category: Sustainability

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The bureau of land management has a plan to revive previously developed or otherwise disturbed lands for alternative energy production. Here to talk about the plan is Jim Kenna, the BLM state director for Arizona. Good to have you here.

Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us.

Jim Kenna: Appreciate your inviting me.

Ted Simons: The Arizona restoration design energy product. Explain.

Jim Kenna: Well, we're really trying to do two things. We're trying to look at sites where there's been a previous land use and generally those are disturbed and look at the potential for those sites for renewable energy generation. And we sort of backed into this to be quite honest in terms of how we got to it. When I came in as state director about a year ago, we had 40 applications, half a million acres under application for various solar projects and looking at those applications, it seemed like most of them were on open desert and on disturbed lands so the question really was shouldn't we add the disturbed lands to the mix so we can sort of widen out what we're looking at when we're answering the question what should the footprint of renewable energy in Arizona be?

Ted Simons: When you're talking about renewable energy, you're talking solar, wind, geothermal, these sorts of things?

Jim Kenna: Yes. In Arizona, it's heavy to solar, southern part of the state. Actually, if you look at a national map for solar potential, Arizona is all high for almost the whole state. We also have a band of high-potential wind up in the north part of the state then some of the other areas there are some smaller potentials for biomass.

Ted Simions: What makes a good location? What are you looking at as far as a proposed location? Obviously has to be disturbed or something along these lines but the slope of the land? What do you look for?

Jim Kenna: Well, at this point in the process, there's kind two of answers to that. One at this point in the process, we're pretty open. We'd like to -- we're entering into a scoping process -- what we call scoping -- where we're going out and asking people what do you think are the best places to do this? But there's also a second part. We have done a lot of informal looking already and really what we've gotten so far, there's a pattern. There are a number of capped landfills; there are a number of mine sites we're looking towards restoration and dedication. There are some lands that are in the middle of other areas that have been disturbed around them that become isolated parcels so there are patterns we're already starting to see in terms of what is being advanced but there are other potential sites that could come up. For example an abandoned agricultural field might fit into the pattern.

Ted Simons: I ask the question regarding how the determining factor and what would be factored in there because you mentioned soil, Water availability, these sorts of things has to factor into it?

Jim Kenna: Well, sure, there are a whole bunch of technical requirements around energy generation. And some of them have to do with proximity to transmission. They have to do with what the time might look like. They have to do with proximity load so we're going to go around the state and we're going to talk about a whole variety and there are -- the questions on the site itself, wildlife conflicts, water issues, those kinds of things, there are technology questions as well. Which type of technology might you apply? Is it photovoltaic, is it concentrated solar trough? There are also questions about how it fits to the transmission system and where the capacity to absorb the incoming generation is? So all of those questions are going to play into this overlay of what areas need the restoration? Where's the potential? How's it fit to the energy system we have in Arizona?

Ted Simons: I found the transmission aspect fascinating because you have to be relatively close or have some sort of path, I would imagine, to the lines, correct?

Jim Kenna: Well, I think so. And you also have to have a concept for how you're going to intertie and different technology do that a little bit differently so all of those factors -- we have two things sitting side by side that's complex. We have to do a system design that respects both of they on the other hand, we have a natural system that's complex on how wildlife moves where the vegetation communities are. The fish, the wildlife, the birds all of that on the other side, you have a very technical system in place that generates energy and transmits it to people's homes so that the light switch comes on when they go home from work at night. So all of that needs to be thought about together to come up with what is the most logical answer and we're in a period where the technology is evolving rapidly as well. So there's a lot in motion here. That's why it's really important to have a robust dialogue with the public.

Ted Simons: And part of that robust dialogue, I would imagine, would include neighboring land owners. How big a factor there? I mean, you could have the perfect spot but if farmer Jones over here doesn't want that sort of business there next to him, how much of a factor is that?

Jim Kenna: That’s a big factor. That's one of the reasons for look at this potential. There are some sites that get advanced into this process that don't make it, because as we get deeper into them, there are conflicts that can't be resolved, there are issues that get developed that we just don't think it's the right place to go, But it also could be that we end up with some partnerships that we hadn't anticipated. We've already had some discussions, for example with the department of state land and we could end up doing some joint things with the department of state land. There are possibilities where we could look at the revenue generation aspect of this, doing something positive for the school funds, at the same time, we deliver renewable energy and we look to do some reconfiguration of the land ownership pattern for conservation purposes. So it's possible to really think about this as a system design kind of question.

Ted Simons: How many sites proposed so far?

Jim Kenna: Right now, we have 45 sites.

Ted Simons: Where are they located, mostly?

Jim Kenna: There are 10 counties so it's all over the state but if I were to say concentrations, load centers are places, along phoenix and along Tucson and along transmission. You see some along the major transmission lines. Along interstate 8, along interstate 10, 40 and those probably are a good summary of where they are.

Ted Simons: Who is paying for all of this?

Jim Kenna: The analysis process is something we're going to do as a federal agency but we're hoping to get cooperators into the process and probably an important piece to note here is this is unique to Arizona. We’re a pilot on a national level and it's being funded as a stimulus fund project. So the contractor work that is being done outside of the agency will be funded through those dollars.

Ted Simons: As far as the time line is concerned? Again, three hearings just this month and then what?

Jim Kenna: We’re going to actually do about nine of these around the state. Three closer in the local area but we'll be accepting ideas about alternatives that we should be sure to look at and about issues that people are very concerned about until march 11th.

Ted Simons: Ok.

Jim Kenna: And then we'll go into a draft, environmental impact statement stage of the process where we'll actually take that do some analysis and later in the year or early next year, we'll come back to the public with that analysis and say, what do you think?

Ted Simons: All right, well, very interesting. It's fascinating stuff. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Jim Kenna: Absolutely. Thank you.

Glendale Casino

  |   Video
  • A bill has been introduced that is designed to block a proposed casino in Glendale. State Representatives Rick Murphy and Chad Campbell discuss the pros and cons of the bill.
  • Rick Murphy - State Representative
  • Chad Campbell - State Representative

View Transcript
Ted Simons: State lawmakers are considering a bill that's designed to block a proposed Tohono O'oodham casino in Glendale. The bill would change the way cities annex neighboring land. Here to discuss the bill are representatives Chad Campbell and Rick Murphy. Thank you both, for joining us here on "horizon."

Ted Simons: Let’s get the idea of a the state being involved in a tribe’s casino plans. Why should a state get involved?

Rick Murphy: First of all the state has been involved with the casinos from get go with the compacts in place and everything else. It's important to note that this is something that has come up out of the blue that was never anticipated as part of those compacts and it really doesn't fit in with the design of those compacts. So I think it's important for the state lawmakers to weigh in and for the local communities to be able to weigh in as well.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, why shouldn't the state get involved?

Chad Campbell: The big question here is what kind of precedent we may be setting with legislation such as this? We're talking about very serious private property issues out here and also the way we do annexations in this state. Prior to this legislation, annexations have always been a process where the city government works with the property owner to annex the land. This'll say to tribal nations, we're going to take your land whenever we want to basically.

Ted Simons: Talk about that if you would. Are there unintended consequences with changing this law?

Rick Murray: Well, Ted there’s always unintended consequences when the governemtn gets involved. But that’s almost exactly what happened with the federal law that started this whole process. The intent of that law was to allow the tribes to replace land they had lost use of with other land outside of metropolitan areas. That was the intent. The simple fact that we happen to have county islands in the Maricopa county area in particular but also around Tucson, um, is a flaw that people didn't really anticipate being part of the problem and the strip annexation that was done decades ago is really what caused that.

Ted Simons: And yet, the tribes are saying that the state and the city that they're not playing fair here, that the department of interior held this land in trust. They bought the land, the tribes did. It's all on the up-and-up. I's doted and t's crossed. How do you respond?

Rick Murray: It may be legally on the up-and-up, but it was really done with kind of a wink and a nod and it really wasn't done with a transparent fashion. By what I mean by that is the gaming compacts and the gaming related propositions were back on the ballot back in, I believe, 2002. And the voters clearly, clearly said they didn't want casino-style gaming in the metro areas expanded off of the traditional reservations. Less than one year later, this particular tribe went out under the name of a straw purchase type of an entity, a corporate name, unbeknownst to anyone went out and acquired this land for the specific purpose of undermining that particular vote and locating a casino right in the middle of a metro area.

Ted Simons: What was the deal with this corporate name here. That doesn't sound -- I mean -- I know what the other side is saying. They're saying it doesn't sound all that transparent. What was going on with that?

Chad Campbell: Again I think, I don't want to speculate on the intent. This land was taken by the tribes or purchased by the tribes legally as part of the Gila bend land replacement act. That was an act passed by congress and signed by President Reagan. There was nothing illegal with the way the land was purchased by the tribes or maintained by the tribes up until this point. The biggest concern is what kind of precedent we would be setting if we tell private property owners, whoever that may be, in this case tribal nations; we’re going to take your land if we feel like. And we'll subvert federal law and subvert the traditional annexation process to do that.

Ted Simons: What about the idea a city or municipality builds a mall, builds a stadium, builds roads, infrastructures and sewers and then out of the blue comes an area that’s right for picking. How is that fair?

Chad Campbell: I’m not sure if it’s a question of fairness or more legality in this case It’s a difficult question to answer, no doubt about that. There's a federal process being played out right now. We as legislatures and we as good citizens of the state working with our tribal partners should let that process play out as well before we jump into the fray with legislation that probably has a lot of unintended consequences.

Ted Simons: What about that? Is the state reacting too quickly here?

Rick Murphy: Well no, I think the state is acting in about the right amount of time, in other words, there was effort made to try to work with the tribe to try to get the tribe to work with the city of Glendale to try to prevent the unintended kinds of consequences that you're talking about. Glendale has a conference center that they have put into place only recently with taxpayer paid bonding that if this casino and the associated conference areas come into play, they will not be able to attract the kinds of business that they were expecting to be able to pay those bonds back and Glendale taxpayers will be on the hook.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, why didn't the city which apparently has been eying this land and some argue was or wasn't in the process of annexing, certainly at one time they were doing it. Why didn't they annex this thing? Why were they waiting? Why is it a big deal now when it could have been done so long ago?

Rick Murphy: I don't have the answer of that because I’m not in the city of Glendale but the reality was there was no development contemplated for that the tribe came in under a fictitious name and bought the land on the q.t. without being transparent or letting the city know what they were planning on doing and without working with the city at all and basically tried to surprise them. I don't think that's a good way to do business. That's not a good way to start a relationship.

Chad Campbell: I think -- let's talk about what the city is doing now, too. The city is now enacting special legislation -- and I think there's no doubt in many people's minds this is special legislation which is illegal to do in this state. It's targeted that the very one property in the west valley in Glendale and we have asked attorneys from the city of Glendale and others what other property might this affect if this isn't special legislation and I’ve yet to see an example. So I think your question, ted, is a very good one because the city has now come in at the last minute and trying to get a very targeted piece of legislation into one specific instance and target it towards the tribal nations.

Ted Simons: We should also mention that the city is doing this because the city has and businesses in that general area, they have a lot to lose, they say, if this casino comes into play. Again, is it right? We'll take fair out of it. Is it right that businesses that surround this area will now be impacted by a big operation?

Chad Campbell: Not advocating for the city's position but if you talk about economic impact of this development, we're talking about a development that will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy and bring in directly or indirectly 6,000 jobs during the construction phase and ongoing 3,000 jobs per year. That's a significant impact for the west valley and the entire region.

Ted Simons:What do you think about that?

Rick Murphy: I think the positive impacts are being overblown and the negative impacts are being downplayed. The permanent jobs that'll be created will be mostly low and moderate wage jobs. They're not the kind of jobs that a typical person will want to raise a family on. Besides which, all the profits generated by this casino are going to be -- it'll be like a big black hole in the west valley. All the profits of it will get sucked down and teleported 200 or 300 miles south and that money won't stay in that local economy will and circulate around to the degree that it would if that was a normal property on city property that was really a part of the community.

Ted Simons: Does that make sense to you? Because it seems like at the bottom of all of this is that people on one side are watching the program and listening to this debate saying, hey, this is a casino. If they want to put it there, they should be able to put it there. The other side is saying if you’re not doing it the right way; it'll impact a lot of other businesses and a lot of other activity out there.

Chad Campbell: That’s true. But let's not forget the fact that right down the street is the Cardinals' stadium and coyotes' arena. You have the Westgate development out there. This is not just a residential area without a massive retail and entertainment development already right down the street so it fits into that character right there I think, but more importantly, I mean to Rick’s point, you know, casino money doesn't generate money for the state. We get a portion of that money from the compact that rick talked about earlier so it's not going into some black hole. This is money that will come into the state regardless of the merits of the casino or not casino in this location.

Rick Murphy: Well and kind of to that point, yes, the state gets a cut but it gets a cut of whatever the tribe says the take is. It's not -- we don't get to audit the books. We don't get to look at the numbers. If they say it generates a certain amount and whatever the applicable percentage is, that's what we get. But we don't have any track records that show that transparency is really at play here and how do we know if that revenue amount is even accurate?

Chad Campbell: I will say this. The Tohono O’oodham Nation has a casino in southern Arizona and they operated it in good faith. There are many letters of support from partners down in that part of the state as well as letters of support from mayor of Tolleson and the mayor of Peoria. I think many People who dealt with the Tribal nation have had a very good relation and a positive experience with them.

Ted Simons: Last question; is it the right thing to let them develop?

Chad Campbell: I don't want to answer that question. That is a process that needs to be played out. My biggest concern about this is we're getting ahead of the game. Let's let the federal process play discount and preempt property rights with vast consequences down the road.

Ted Simons: Is it the right thing for the state to get involved with something that heretofore has gone the way it's supposed to go?

Rick Murphy: Not sure it's gone the way it's supposed to go. The tribes were supposed to be able to replace their reservation land on their reservation it wasn't intended for them to pluck a choice parcel in the middle of the city and put a development in that doesn't fit with what is going on there and suck a bunch of revenue away from that city and transport it half way across the state.

Ted Simons: Great conversation, thank you for joining us.

New Lawmakers

  |   Video
  • Dennis Braswell was named to replace Pamela Gorman in the state senate. There will be other new lawmakers soon as other lawmakers have resigned recently, all to run for congress. Dennis Welch of the Arizona Guardian discusses the changes at the legislature.
  • Dennis Welch - Arizona Guardian

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "HORIZON." I’m Ted Simons. There's a new state lawmaker at the capitol. The Maricopa county board of supervisors today named Republican Party district chairman David Braswell to fill the seat of former district 6 senator Pamela Gorman who resigned to run for congress. In naming Braswell to the senate, board chairman Don Stapley told him that he hoped Braswell wouldn't balance the budget on the backs of cities and towns. Here now to talk about the new lawmaker and similar changes expected in other districts is Dennis Welch of the Arizona guardian. Good to see you.

Dennis Welch: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: Who is David Braswell?

Dennis Welch: He’s a continuation of the tradition of that seat of being very conservative both fiscally and conservatively. I guess, um, you know, um, the one difference between him and his predecessor would be he'd shown a willingness to support the governor's 1 cent sales tax referral we've been talking about now for months.

Ted Simons: Interesting, describe the process now that went into senator Braswell now taking his seat?

Dennis Welch: The process started several weeks ago obviously when Pam Gorman resigned to run for congress on for cd-3. What happened with that was the precinct committee felt votes for her precinct committee had five days to select three candidates those candidates went to the county board of supervisors who made the final decision. Unlike the precinct, they don't have a time limit in which they're going to work on that. In fact, they've been very deliberate in this whole process because the county is looking out for the county. They've been hit hard with all the budget cuts. They feel there's been a lot of unfunded mandates and a lot of costs being pushed from the state back onto the county. They're looking for candidates that will help save them.

Ted Simons: Interesting, you have the resignation, precinct nominees three, board of supervisors looked at three and the board decides that Mr. Braswell is the one. Um, anything -- compare and contrast to senator Gorman?

Dennis Welch: Well, like I said, I think the key difference is senator Gorman when it came to the governor's tax referral was just dug in. She was not going to vote for this thing any which way. Heck, there were stories where the governor had, you know, went down there personally try to lobby the senator and she just wasn't going to give in. Now, Braswell had told me last week before the vote that he would be willing to, you know, consider this he described the governor's plans as thoughtful and saying, hey, it's realistic. We have to look at the fact that revenues are down in the state. We've got to look at these ideas. We've got to deal with the kind of money we have.

Ted Simons: Also up in anthem way, Representative Sam Crump. Has he gone ahead and resigned yet?

Dennis Welch: Yes, he’s gone ahead and resigned. Tonight, they're going to be announcing the same process as Gorman. They'll be selecting three candidates that will then go before the board no big-named candidates in that one. So there'll be doing that over the next few days and also in the next few days, the board will be selecting from a replacement for Jim Waring as well. It's a busy time up there because the shaddock resignation has really changed the landscape of Arizona politics right now.

Ted Simons: Let’s not forget Senator Jonathan Peyton whom I guess still hasn't resigned but is expected now. He's probably going to resign so he can run for congressional district 8. How is all of this impacting the legislature? Are folks kind of wandering around a little bit trying to figure out who will sit next to them?

Dennis Welch: There’s that and vote counting is pretty hard. Some people who may have voted one way on an issue last year aren’t going to do it this year. You know, with certain people like Jonathan Peyton, he's trying to get certain bills out of the way before he runs for congress, certain things he wants to get done that maybe helps him in a republican primary. He's running for congress. That's really how that's impacting that right now.

Ted Simons: And back to Braswell real quickly. Anyone not pleased you think with his choice?

Dennis Welch: This is rumored between you and I and no one else, the governor and the senate president and the speaker apparently had different ideas about who should be appointed to fill this spot. Um, last week, the board had agreed on a Friday or Thursday or Friday date to appoint this spot and then unexpectedly postponed that until today. So, you know, there was definitely some disagreement on that. And moving forward, they're going to be very deliberate, again, a very deliberate about whom they pick. They'll be finding out who these people are, where they're going to be when they need them later in the year when we're looking at really steep budget cuts again.

Ted Simons: Interesting, board of supervisors have the final say?

Dennis Welch: They have the final say. I think close to 5% of the entire legislature will be appointed by the Maricopa County and Pima board of supervisors. It's an incredible thing when you think about it. I don't think---- we've had so many people having to be appointed.

Ted Simons: Good stuff, Dennis. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.