Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 1, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Abandoned Mines, Habitat Restoration

  |   Video
  • Arizona Bureau of Land Management Director Jim Kenna discusses issues regarding BLM land in our state, including efforts to mitigate danger from abandoned mines and restore natural grasslands.
Guests:
  • Jim Kenna - Director, Arizona Bureau of Land Management
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: land, mines, natural grasslands,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
The bureau of land management oversees millions of acres in Arizona. Some of that land is a focus of a variety of restoration projects. Here to talk about issues regarding public land is Arizona BLM director Jim Kenna.

Jim Kenna:
Great to be here.

Ted Simons:
Let's talk about renewable energy and the concept of renewable power on public lands. I keep hearing a lot of folks are interested. Are they lookie-lous or seriously interested.

Jim Kenna:
I would say a combination of the two. We have in Arizona alone over 400,000 acres in 33 applications. But out of that 33, we have one fast track application, that's the SONORAN application, down in the buckeye area , and there are three or four looking to perfect an application. When they come in with the initial application, usually it's a large acreage. They don't know where the footprint is going to be, where the panels will go, where the gas line comes in or the roads go or what's the intertie. There are a lot of details we need to know before we can analyze a project. One of the indicators you can see of a project that's active. They're working on that and getting to the point where we can do what we call a notice of intent which says, ok. We're ready. We have an application that's been perfected. We're going to look at issues and alternatives and that's a very public process.

Ted Simons:
Leasing this land for this kind of activity, what kind of revenue are we talking about?

Jim Kenna:
For BLM land it goes out on a right-of-way schedule. And so it might be a little different between state lands and federal lands or Indian lands, those questions might be answered differently in different places. But basically there are two components to it and usually based on a schedule that's derived from a appraisal. We have an appraiser come in and they look at the situation and a certain amount is on the land area that's affected and another portion is based on the power generation. So it's kind of a two-step process based on an appraisal.


Ted Simons:
A little bit of a moving target as far as revenue is concerned?

Jim Kenna:
And some of those issues are being clarified at the national level. I think the number is going to move around a little bit.

Ted Simons:
The concept of putting the renewable energy on landfills or abandoned mine sites that need to be restored. How serious is that?

Jim Kenna:
I think very serious and I’ll give you a couple of indicators. When we had our design meeting which is one of objectives of the BLM efforts we initiated here. We had a public meeting in Tucson and Tucson electric stood up and said from our perspective, there's no need to look past disturbed land because there are plenty of citing opportunities. What do disturbed lands give you? Something has happened on that parcel of land already so perhaps there's clearance work done or at a minimum, there's less public concern about what might be affected by clearing off a piece of land that's undisturbed.

Ted Simons:
Something as simple as roads to the location, those would more than likely exist.

Jim Kenna:
They would in general exist, yeah.

Ted Simons:
Abandoned mines, I know Arizona has a concern regarding them and this is has been around for a while. What are we seeing making these sites safe?

Jim Kenna:
We put in for a sizeable chunk of project money under the stimulus act. American recovery and reinvestment act and over $400,000 we're going to put into projects and that will basically buy in Arizona is about 20 sites where we'll put a bat gate over the top. They can go in and out but it's safe -- a person couldn't fall in. But also we will back-fill a number of sites, an equal number. If you look toward our history in Arizona, we literally have, you know, hundreds if not thousands of the -- of these around Arizona. We've been concentrating in the Phoenix and Tucson areas in filling in some of those because of the public safety aspect.


Ted Simons:
I know restoring the area is a major concern but there are restoration projects, grassland. Desert grassland restoration projects. What does that mean?

Jim Kenna:
Most people don't see -- they look and see what's there today, but if you look at the long-term history of the vegetation systems in the west and it's true in Arizona and the desert and you start to see over hundreds of years an increase in the woodies component. Let me give you an example. Down in the La Cienega area we’ve see an increase in Mesquite. What happens is you increase that component, the tree and the brush, you start to lose the grass land and there are certain species dependant on that, like the antelope, they like the vistas so they can see predators coming so we'll try and restore some of that back -- not all, but some of it back to grass. That helps those species dependent on the grass in order for their survival mechanisms and helps water percolation in the system, in this case, the san Pedro watershed.

Ted Simons:
The san Pedro river, restoring the riparian areas is a major concern as well. A favorite place for those who like to bird watch and look at that beautiful area. How is that river holding up? And the Aqua Fria holding up?

Jim Kenna:
The one, san Pedro, we have a decline there is long-term water flow based on the gauges on the rivers. There's concerns we're working on with the upper san Pedro partnership. Those are going to have to be long-term solutions to address a long-term trend. The good news, there's a lot of effort where people are working together to address those issues. And we're trying to create a basis for the community to feel invested in the site. Trying to make it more visitor-friendly. And that could be anything from a RAMADA to the signing on the trails.

Ted Simons:
And the same situation as far as the aqua fria.

Jim Kenna:
We don’t have the level of information we have on the Aqua Fria as we do on the San Pedrio. So what we are doing there is really working with the Friends of the Aqua Fria -- this is a community group from the area sort of north Phoenix up into black city that does tremendous work. I've bragged on them on the national level. They will be there when we do wet-dry surveys and that's done in the hottest part of the year where they go out and map the river, and in a given year, how much is wet, how much dry and what you really need is multiple years worth of this survey data as well as other information to get an accurate idea on trend and we’re getting out there.

Ted Simons:
Last question, we've covered a lot of things. What's the biggest concern as far as the state and public lands and managing those land dollars concerned?

Jim Kenna:
I would say three pieces. These are the three pieces that we are really focusing on in Arizona. The first is a sustainability issue and that has water components to it. It has ecological functions components and big issues like climate change in the middle of it. The second is the heritage, those questions about what we're going to hand off to the next generation. And the third area is the community support pieces. Where the energy questions are, the recreation amenities that the communities need and so on.

Ted Simons:
Very good. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

Jim Kenna:
Absolutely.

Air Quality Violations

  |   Video
  • Maricopa County is in danger of losing millions of dollars in federal funding because of repeated violations for dust in the air. Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Benjamin Grumbles explains the situation.
Guests:
  • Benjamin Grumbles - Director, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: environment, air quality, dust, pollution,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon" -- Maricopa County could lose a billion dollars in federal highway funds because of pollution violations. I'll talk to the state's top environment official about that. An international conference dealing with water sources and wastewater treatment is being held in the valley. We'll hear from one of the conference organizers. And find out what's being done to reclaim and make safe federal land in Arizona. That's next, on "Horizon."

"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.

The U.S. Supreme Court today denied a request to block matching funds to candidates running under Arizona's clean election law. The court did leave open the possibility of a full appeal of the ninth circuit's decision to uphold matching funds. The Goldwater Institute late today filed another request to the high court to stop distribution of the funds.

Today's news helped push a guvernatorial candidate to quit the race. Republican John Munger says he's dropping out because the Supreme Court's decision creates a, quote, "unequal playing field" for candidates.

The environment protection agency recently ruled that Maricopa County cannot blame dust storms for dust pollution violations. The county is allowed just three violations in a three-year period. There were four violations in 2008 alone. That could mean the loss of federal funds. Here to talk about the situation is Benjamin Grumbles, director of the Arizona department of environmental quality. Good to see you.

Benjamin Grumbles:
Good to see you, thank you.

Ted Simons:
What's at stake seems to be the idea that dust storms which were counted as exceptional events and now it’s not going to -- the EPA saying they're not exceptional events anymore.

Benjamin Grumbles:
They say it depends and they know it when they see it. And we stand behind the analysis we provided to them and we're disappointed but absolutely commited to making progress on the environmental front.


Ted Simons:
Why did the EPA decide this? Again, more of your thoughts on this?

Benjamin Grumbles:
What is at stake is we know the area is violating the Clean Air Act and we're on a absolutely constructive path toward progress but we need to show the EPA that there were exceptional regional dust storms and that needed to be taken into account and what they've decided is, no, we looked at the pictures, we decided that you're violating the act. This plan is probably going to have to be disapproved. So we're disappointed but we know by collaborating with MAG and the Maricopa County governments we're going to make progress and clean up the air.

Ted Simons:
The plan, if it were disapproved, that means starting over and federal funds at stake, correct?

Benjamin Grumbles:
That's a road we felt we didn't have to go down with EPA, so we're discouraged they didn't take into account the data we provided because it does lead, eventually to a disapproval of a strong plan that has 53 control measures in it. But the good news is we are fully committed to making progress, continuing to make progress under a new plan if we need to revise the plan to control dust. And so we'll work with EPA, as we have been doing. We're just disappointed by their decision on the exceptional events factors.

Ted Simons:
Talk more, if you will, on what's at stake. Up to a billion dollars, more, in highway funds?

Benjamin Grumbles:
Environmental progress is key, but it has to be taken with economic prosperity. And so EPA is signaling they're going to start a process where new projects moving into the area would be subject to the loss of funding. Transportation projects would be put on hold. Highway funds would be a loss. That's a sanction that's down the road. And ultimately, there would be a federal plan, the EPA would federalize local efforts to control dust. That's a worst case scenario and we feel there's no reason to go in that direction because we're all committed to controlling dust and making progress.

Ted Simons:
You talk about if this plan has to be revised, changed, whatever, you're ready to do it. How would it need to be changed? What do you see the things that need to be addressed?


Benjamin Grumbles:
It would be helpful if EPA can articulate a basis, a sound scientific basis for denying the exceptional events part of the equation. But the other positive thing, that we know will continue to be good for the air and for the citizens of Maricopa County are for the local governments to continue to stay on message and pave dirt roads, sweep streets, keep off-road vehicles out of areas and trails where they create dust problems and continue to work with the agricultural community to employ best practices and keep the dust out the air and work with the construction industry too.

Ted Simons:
The EPA referred to the construction industry and understands that construction happens and dust flies but they say the violations used after the downturn in the construction industry and that can't be used as a excuse.

Benjamin Grumbles:
We're not looking for excuses. We know one of our biggest challenges is dust, and part of it is because we live in a desert and we have regional storms and heavy wind that creates problems and we also know, and EPA knows that we know this, that it takes everyone being involved in solving the problem, using the different types of practices to control dust. To be smart about it, to have smart growth practices, policies in place. We're -- we're excited about the future because we know we have the foundation for a sound plan with 53 control measures in it. We think that we -- we're at, I know we're all going to sit down with EPA and local governments and continue to work on strengthening those plans and bringing in agriculture, transportation, construction industry, the mining associations and say, we need to make more progress and we don't need to put EPA in charge of the local planning.

Ted Simons:
It seems like things like non-compliance especially in Maricopa County is almost a tradition. Yet we don't hear about it in Pima county and other areas. Parts of southern Arizona that are deserts as well. How come?

Benjamin Grumbles:
You look at the natural conditions that -- the topography, the way the wind currents are and the temperature in the valley. We live here in the valley in a particularly unique place, between the mountains and wind patterns and the temperatures. The fact that you have a dry -- dry riverbeds, whether it's the Gila or the Agua Fria and definitely the Salt River, those dry river beds are definitely a factor that can contribute to the particle pollution factors. And it's a variety of natural factors at play. And our point to the EPA, take those into account but let's work together. We can do things. We're responsible, as local and regional agencies to grow in a smart way and control dust. Which is one of the biggest threats we have to air quality in the area.

Ted Simons:
It sounds like the EPA's message was to you, we're serious, let's get something done. Message received?

Benjamin Grumbles:
Message received and the relayed message to EPA, we know we're in this together. Let's focus on collaboration over confrontation and use our scientific data and let's work together to solve the problem.

Ted Simons:
We appreciate it.

Benjamin Grumbles:
Thanks, Ted.

International Water Association Leading Edge Technology Conference

  |   Video
  • The International Water Association Leading Edge Technology Conference was held this week in the Valley to bring together experts from around the world to discuss challenges in finding sustainable water solutions. Paul Westerhoff, Director of ASU's School of Sustainability Engineering, talks about the conference.
Guests:
  • Paul Westerhoff - Director, ASU's School of Sustainability Engineering
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: environment, international water association, water, sustainability,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
The international water association leading edge technology conference is being held this week in the valley. The event brings together experts from around the world to discuss challenges to finding sustainable water solutions. Here to talk about the conference is Paul Westerhoff, the director of the Arizona state university school of sustainable engineering and the built environment. He is a water researcher and one of the organizers of the event. Good to have you here.

Paul Westerhoff:
Thanks, Ted.

Ted Simons:
What are we talking about here?

Paul Westerhoff:
This is the first time this conference has come to the United States at all and we're able to bring it to Arizona and it brings efforts really from around the globe who deal with water. This is the water you use every day in your house, that runs industry, as well as the wastewater we end up treating, using for power plants and golf courses, for example.

Ted Simons:
I would imagine wastewater reuse is a biggy.



Paul Westerhoff:
It is. And one of the reasons we can bring it to Arizona is that we can look at the challenges as well as the opportunities using water throughout its whole cycle.

Ted Simons:
Does Arizona by its nature, being a desert, it was discussed in our last interview, regarding dust and such, make for challenges that would be beneficial for others to learn about.

Paul Westerhoff:
When this organization looked for where to come, we sold Arizona as the water capital of the world but the technology we use here and the experts at the cities and consulting firms around here are leading the world's technology development whether it's for drinking water or reuse.

Ted Simons:
Let’s talk about the idea of nutrient recovery from reuse water, what does that mean?

Paul Westerhoff:
Phosphorus, the stuff we use in our lawns is going to run out in somewhere between 50 to 75 years and a lot of it ends up in wastewater and one of the ideas is to recover it from wastewater. Another one is all the carbon, that is the food wastes and other things that go down your sink, actually right now is looked at as waste. You can make energy from wastewater by recovering the energy inside the carbon.

Ted Simons:
The idea of the phosphorus disappearing, first, what happened to it? And secondly, what kind of impact are we talking here?

Paul Westerhoff:
About five to 10 mines in the world where most of the phosphorus comes from. In the United States, two are three are going to be depleted in the next 20 years so, we need to look ahead at the sources of phosphorus. We look at it from agricultural inputs, everything we need to get our food from, but we can think of in the '40s and '50s, there were changes in the nitrogen cycle that provides the greening in the world. A forecast is the lack of phosphorus could cause the browning of the world. It's going into the Gulf of Mexico as it runs off agricultural crops and where we can retain it are the opportunities we're looking at.


Ted Simons:
What technology are we looking at? I know ASU is at the forefront of this stuff.

Paul Westerhoff:
There's a whole spectrum of technologies out there that in the past, phosphorus was looked at as a bad thing to keep out of the water, so you wouldn't have algae growth. But now we're looking at similar technologies to remove the phosphorus and then use it more efficiently. For waste water right now a lot of the phosphorus goes in the removal of the bacteria to purify the water, than is supplied to agricultural crops, but it becomes very expensive to move that amount of material around when you're only interested in one element.

Ted Simons:
I know ASU is also involved in something -- microbial photo energy for renewable energy.

Paul Westerhoff:
Right.

Ted Simons:
What is that all about?

Paul Westerhoff:
This is the use of algae to capture sunlight from the sun and turn it into either lipids, oils or other high-value materials. But in these systems, just like you and I requires nitrogen and phosphorus and one of the tricks is to be able to recover the phosphorus out the system while you produce the oil.

Ted Simons:
This is all technology and kind of high-techy stuff but there's also public policy, getting countries to work together. Food, management, and transportation to work together. That's got to be part of the discussion.

Paul Westerhoff:
This conference brings 50 countries from around the world. China, rapidly growing in terms of technologies for water development and the focus of this conference is really on recovering the carbon and phosphorus, Purifying water with new technologies and I think the new domain to come in here is understanding the public perception of water. Would you want to use reclaimed water. Why not? What would you want it use it for? I think the cutting edge of the leading edge is really this melding of science, technology and public perception.

Ted Simons:
As well as public policy around the globe. Not just with city-to-city, but country-to-country.

Paul Westerhoff:
Right, even though you can move food crops around the world, it becomes difficult to ship water from China to the U.S. Unless you look at new technologies. So one example of this would be hydrogen fuel cells. The amount the electricity you use in your house, you can produce from a hydrogen fuel cell. The byproduct is water. You bought the hydrogen from somewhere and the oxygen is in the air and it recombines and there's water. One of the posters for this conference for example is looking at fuel cells, the amount of energy you use in your house will produce a few gallons of ultra pure water you can drink.

Ted Simons:
The concept of urban wastewater treatment around the world, in general, are we seeing marked improvement or have we hit a plateau?

Paul Westerhoff:
What's really spurred on the advances in the United States and then developing countries is the regulation. So in the 1970s, there was the Clean Water Act to protect the environment from pollution from wastewater. However in the U.S. it is becoming more recognized, whether you're in Philadelphia or other cities that a large fraction of the water in the water supply is actually wastewater. So the regulations that mirror wastewater and drinking water are very disparate. That they need to -- come closer and closer together, so this conference is looking at technologies that are looking at leapfrogging into the next generation. When you go to developed countries, if I make an analogy, you don't want to put in land lines for phones. You want cellphones. We’re also looking to leapfrog technology for developing countries and how the new infrastructure in the United States can be built as well.

Ted Simons:
And the attendees of the conference will be able to look at what ASU is doing as well. What will they be seeing?

Paul Westerhoff:
Today we had a tour of international people looking at the Arizona biodesign center and environmental research labs where they're doing cutting edge technology, identifying the challenges in our water and the technological solutions that are out there to solve the problems for the future.

Ted Simons:
Fascinating stuff. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Paul Westerhoff:
Thank you.

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