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August 30, 2010

Host: Ted Simons

Dust Pollution Sanctions

  |   Video
  • Lindy Bauer, Environmental Director for the Maricopa Association of Governments, discusses the severe financial sanctions Maricopa County will face if the EPA disapproves a MAG dust reduction plan that’s been in effect since 2007.
  • Lindy Bauer - Environmental Director,Maricopa Association of Governments
Category: Environment

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. As early as Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency may move forward with plans to disapprove a Maricopa Association of Governments plan to reduce dust pollution. At stake are millions of federal dollars that fund transportation projects in the Valley. Here with the latest is Lindy Bauer, environmental director for the Maricopa Association of Governments. Thank you so much for being here.

Lindy Bauer: Thank you.

Ted Simons: It sounds like the EPA is saying push has finally come to shove.

Lindy Bauer: EPA indeed has said, push has come to shove, and we are very concerned about that. The Maricopa Association of Governments takes air pollution very seriously. We have 53 control measures in the plan and they are very aggressive and designed to reduce dust pollution.

Ted Simons: So what is the EPA's problem?

Lindy Bauer: According to the Clean Air Act, the plan is to reduce emissions by 5% per year until we meet the standard. The way EPA determines if you have met the standard is measured by the air quality monitors throughout the Valley. Congress in 2005 amended the Clean Air Act to allow what is known as exceptional events. These are high winds, wildfires, events beyond your control that can cause an area to go over the standard. In this case there were four exceptional events in 2008 that the Environmental Protection Agency disagrees with. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality submitted documentation showing that these four exceptional events at the West 43rd Avenue monitor were due to high winds. But the Environmental Protection Agency disagrees. Now, this, in turn, this disagreement would constitute a violation of the particulate matter standard.

Ted Simons: PM-10 is the coarse dust they are talking about, that's specifically targeted by the EPA?

Lindy Bauer: Yes, and in our region it's due mostly to fugitive dust.

Ted Simons: They are not buying the idea that these were exceptional events. Do we understand why?

Lindy Bauer: One of the main reasons it appears that they are not buying it, they have not reviewed all of the information that has been submitted. There has been a great deal of scientific information submitted by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. And our organization has also been assisting. We put our top consultants, our research on this task, and as well as our staff. The EPA has ignored a great deal of the scientific data.

Ted Simons: Do we know why?

Lindy Bauer: The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest filed a lawsuit in December of 2009, and they filed the lawsuit because EPA failed to take action on our plan, which they have had since December of 2007. They failed to take action on time. So the Center for Law in the Public Interest filed the lawsuit. Then the EPA entered into a proposed consent decree with the Center, with timing on when they intend to take action. So the lawsuit could be pushing EPA to take action.

Ted Simons: Basically, getting them working where they may not have been working before, they are working now. What happens? Give us a timetable. We have the end of the week and then the end of January next year. Talk to us about these two dates.

Lindy Bauer: These are indeed very important dates. EPA has come to an agreement for the Center for Law in the Public Interest that there would be action on the 3rd, and they would go final on January 28th, 2011. The regional administrator came to town and conducted a meeting here, and indicated that because EPA disagreed with exceptional events, this would lead EPA to disapprove the 5% plan.

Ted Simons: So what can the state do? What can the county do? What's left? Not be able to use leaf blowers anymore? What do we do?

Lindy Bauer: We already have controls on leaf blowers. There are several controls on construction, several controls on all the sources. In fact, we thought we were doing just fine, because the state indicated to us that these were high wind exceptional events beyond our control. That would have meant we would have been clean in 2008. Things have changed, however, since we did that plan. We're in a downturn with the economy, so the sources, the percent contribution from the different sources has changed. If EPA moves forward and disapproves this plan we will have to take a look at the new contribution coming from the various sources. We'll have to see if there are additional measures that can be added. It's becoming increasingly difficult.

Ted Simons: And quickly, before you go, this is a big deal, there's a lot at stake.

Lindy Bauer: There is a great deal at stake. We have a $7.4 billion transportation improvement program that includes the freeways, streets, transit, all sorts of bicycle projects, pedestrian, it's a multimodal plan. And if there are air quality -- our air quality plan is disapproved and we don't remedy the problem in time, we stand to lose $1.7 billion of federal highway funds. This could account for 61,000 jobs lost in this region. And on the day that those highway sanctions are imposed, it would impact the rest of our transportation improvement programs, the projects could be stopped and that equates to another 215,000 jobs for this region.

Ted Simons: Thank you so much for joining us tonight, we appreciate it.

Prop 203: Medical Marijuana

  |   Video
  • Voters will be deciding on a medical marijuana initiative this November. Proposition 203 would protect terminally or seriously ill patients from state prosecution for using limited amounts of marijuana on a doctor’s recommendation. The proposition contains many other provisions to regulate medical marijuana. Paul Charlton of Keep Arizona Drug Free and Joe Yuhas of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project will discuss the pros and cons of proposition 203.
  • Paul Charlton - Keep Arizona Drug Free
  • Joe Yuhas - Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project
Category: Vote 2010

View Transcript
Ted Simons: There's only one measure on this November's ballot that was not put there by the legislature. It deals with medical marijuana. Here to talk about Proposition 203 is Joe Yuhas of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, and Paul Charlton of Keep Arizona Drug Free. Let's start with you, Joe. Why is there a need for medical marijuana in Arizona?

Joe Yuhas: Simply put, so we can stop arresting patients. Thousands of Arizona patients now are using marijuana at the recommendation of their doctor. In the course of fighting the illness, perhaps a death threatening illness, they also face the additional risk of arrest. The medical marijuana initiative would allow us to establish a regulated system of marijuana dispensaries and a regulated system where patients could access the medical marijuana as part of their treatment process.

Ted Simons: Let's start with the idea that you've got seriously ill or terminally ill patients. Why should those fear arrest?

Paul Charlton: There are terminally ill, seriously ill individuals who genuinely believe smoking marijuana will benefit them there. There are people like Mr. Yuhas that hold that belief. Well, Proposition 203 is not about medicine, it's about legalizing marijuana. It's a political bait and switch where we hold out the idea of a system, but deliver a law that legalizes marijuana. It's been bought and paid for by an organization called The Marijuana Project. They have invested over a half million dollars in this proposition and their single and monolithic goal is the legalization of marijuana. I can tell you, too, that I was a prosecutor for 16 years and I have friends that have been D.A.s for over 30 years.

Ted Simons: Respond, please.

Joe Yuhas: Heather Torgeson, our campaign chair, is an example of one of those patients. Ted, the fact of the matter is over 250,000 Arizona voters authorized this measure to go to the ballot. One of the earliest initiatives to qualify in state history. This is not about legalizing marijuana. This is about making marijuana available for medical use in a limited, highly regulated fashion. Regulated dispensaries, cards issued to patients at the recommendation of their doctor, all under the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Ted Simons: The idea that this is not impacting the community, but serving the patients' needs, both at the same time, wrong?

Paul Charlton: It is. This is where I respectfully disagree with Joe. If this were truly about delivering marijuana as medicine to the terminally ill, this project could have gone to the FDA, a government agency that for over a hundred years has protected us, and used the science they say they have and convinced the FDA to use marijuana as a medicine. But they didn't go that route. In this country we don't vote on whether or not drugs should be medicine. We look at science to make that determination. That's why the FDA is there.

Ted Simons: As far as regulation is concerned, I know a lot of folks look at California and see a mess over there in a variety of ways. This idea would have the Department of Health Services regulate virtually all of the medical marijuana process. Doesn't that make sense? Isn't that an improvement over previous attempts to work with medical marijuana?

Paul Charlton: Well, that's a common misunderstanding for two reasons. Number one, we can see our future by looking at California. If you want to look at San Diego, you can see that only 2% of the individuals receiving marijuana in San Diego are terminally ill. If you want to see who's really receiving marijuana in California, Google the "60 Minutes" program that covered California's medical marijuana program, and you'll see an undercover journalist visiting a doctor because she has pain as a result of wearing high heels. She received marijuana as a result of that. This isn't about medicine. It's about this project's desire to legalize marijuana. We know that here in Arizona we're going to see the same kinds of problems we've seen in California and Colorado where, for five minutes and $150 over the phone, you can get a doctor to prescribe it for you.

Joe Yuhas: I can tell you with absolute certainty we will not. When California passed its medical marijuana initiative a decade ago, it created an unregulated industry. Arizona will be the 16th this November, I'm confident of that. As a result of the experience in other states, we have been careful to craft an initiative that offers the regulation, the oversight of the Department of Health Services, a limited number of dispensaries, and only specific illnesses can a patient receive the recommendation for medical marijuana. So we're confident that the safeguards we've put in place in the initiative is one of the reasons why we have such broad-based support.

Ted Simons: You mentioned their doctor. Does it have to be your doctor? Can it be any M.D.?

Joe Yuhas: It would require the recommendation of a doctor. There's obviously different doctors that have different specialties in whatever illness the patient is facing, but it would have to be a medical professional who risks their own practice and license if they abuse the law.

Paul Charlton: Let me address both of those points. It can be an M.D., an osteopath, homeopath or naturopath. Proposition 203 limits the ability of those boards to go after physicians who overprescribe in this area. And we should talk about what kind of regulation the Arizona Department of Health Services will be involved in. The proposition says very clearly that before ADHS investigates a dispensary, they have to call them up and give them reasonable notice. That's not required for the inspection of a restaurant, but it's going to be required for the inspection of a marijuana dispensary.

Ted Simons: I want to get to the fact that there are other ways that THC, the impacting chemical in marijuana, can be prescribed to patients and given to patients. Let's take the pain element out of this. Folks who really believe they are getting comfort, relief, some sort of benefit from smoking marijuana as opposed to the pill form: If they are getting that relief, shouldn't we find a way to provide that relief?

Paul Charlton: I couldn't agree more. The way to do that is by going to the FDA and showing them the science that says there's a way to do that. Half million dollars were spent here to get a popular vote on whether or not we want to call a drug a medicine. The way to do it is through the FDA.

Joe Yuhas: Ted, if we've learned anything in recent experiences in Arizona, it is that we can't wait for the federal government to solve our critical issues. This is an opportunity for Arizona to join 14 other states that have taken this action. 14 other states have taken the same action. The initiative we're proposing is very mainstream, and that is one of the reasons why, again, we benefit from such broad-based support from across the state.

Ted Simons: The American Medical Association, American Cancer Society, American Glaucoma Society, M.S. Society, these are conditions listed as those affected being affected by marijuana and providing relief. None of those organizations are behind the idea of smoking marijuana for relief. Why is that?

Joe Yuhas: We're not saying it's for everyone. It's clearly an emerging issue. We are saying that patients who find this relief for the treatment they are undergoing for that illness should be allowed this option.

Ted Simons: It's easier to dose by way of smoking. The response seems to be better and the relief seems to be more impactful, again, I know the FDA, the idea of going there first. But do we wait for that? Can we do something on our own and see how it works?

Paul Charlton: I think it goes to the question you just asked, Ted. If the AMA, specifically designed to represent those patients, why haven't those organizations -- and as far as I can tell, not a single one of those organizations have given a dime to this proposition. Yet this out-of-state organization whose single monolithic goal is legalization of marijuana, is willing to spend the money. Let's make it an honest debate about the legalization of marijuana, and one where we pass a law that fairly represents what it is Arizona residents want. We are going to have a law, if this proposition is passed into law, where physicians can conduct surgery with marijuana in their system, as long as they are not impaired. Bus drivers can take our children to and from school with marijuana impairment.

Ted Simons: 30 seconds. How do you respond to that?

Joe Yuhas: There's been no evidence of that in any of the other states that have passed medical marijuana laws. There is a fixation on smoking. There are other ways to ingest the THC that provides the relief through food products and tinctures. This system will create a legal regulated system of a practice we know is going on now. The only difference is we're going eliminate the risk that patients face now of arrest.

Ted Simons: Gentlemen, we have to stop it there. Thanks for joining us.

Paul Charlton: Thank you.

Joe Yuhas: Thank you.

Rain or No Rain?

  |   Video
  • Will this winter be hotter and drier, or colder and wetter, than usual? ASU Professor of Geographical Sciences Randy Cerveny shares what the weather patterns appear to have in store for Arizona.
  • Randy Cerveny - ASU Professor of Geographical Sciences
Category: Environment

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Here to talk about the weather in the fall and winter months is ASU professor of Geographical Sciences Randy Cerveny, thank you for joining us.

Randy Cerveny: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Before we get to the forecast for the next few months, JPL and some other scientific folks have come out with a story that El Nino has doubled in intensity and warmth over the last 20 years. What does that all mean?

Randy Cerveny: Well, El Nino, first of all, the whole idea with El Nino and La Nina has to do with the center of the Pacific Ocean. Think of it as a giant hot tub that kind of sloshes from one way back towards the other way. When it sloshes towards Australia, it's sloshing cold water. When it comes back, it sloshes warm water. Over the last year we've had the warm water of El Nino. The JPL scientists are showing us that what we've had over the last 20 to 30 years, more of these El Nino events and more intense El Nino events. There is something called the Pacific oscillation which is an overarching thing that controls El Nino and we think that could be part of it. Also, it could be somewhat the effect of global warming.

Ted Simons: NOAA was also saying it seems to be shifting westward, as well. What does that mean?

Randy Cerveny: Well, the position of where this warm water is that is in the Pacific Ocean determines where our storm track is going to be. So if it's located in the central Pacific Ocean, oftentimes that storm track will come down through California and into Arizona and New Mexico. If it shifts a little towards the west, it might push more precipitation towards California and a little less towards Arizona if that holds true.

Ted Simons: Shifting means perhaps less rain, but strengthening could mean perhaps more rain?

Randy Cerveny: Right. And it's still somewhat preliminary results so I want to see exactly what's going on. We know a lot more about what individual El Ninos and individual La Ninas will do.

Ted Simons: But as far as the idea of strengthening and all this, could some sort of natural variant like global warming be involved?

Randy Cerveny: Well, the Pacific Ocean is our biggest ocean and it absorbs a whole bunch of heat. If there's an indicator of climate change, the Pacific Ocean might be the place to look to see if it's occurring.

Ted Simons: Kind of a canary in the coal mine thing?

Randy Cerveny: Right.

Ted Simons: It's said that El Nino has morphed into something else again. What does it mean?

Randy Cerveny: It means our predictability is becoming a little bit harder to come up with. Usually, every two out of three El Ninos mean wetter conditions for Arizona. We may not be able to make those kinds of forecasts long term in the future. If we can tell you in the summer what the winter is going to be like, that's very important for the economy of the entire region.

Ted Simons: The whole idea of a strengthening and shifting El Nino affecting La Nina at all?

Randy Cerveny: La Nina is the opposite condition. It's the surge of cool water being pumped up along the coast of South America and into the central Pacific. Normally that's the normal situation that we find. 8 Every five out of six years is a La Nina situation, only one out of every six or seven years is an El Nino situation. La Nina is the more common situation.

Ted Simons: We've got graphs and visuals to show, first of all, what the one-month temperature probability forecast is for the United States. It looks like a hot time here in Arizona, doesn't it?

Randy Cerveny: These are probability values you're actually seeing. They are not really temperatures but we're above normal chances for having warm conditions here in the southwest is basically what that's suggesting.

Ted Simons: And we have another graph that shows the one-month precip forecast. Again, this looks like it's La Nina all over the place because -- although, you know, it just doesn't look all that great, does it?

Randy Cerveny: No. It basically means that we're going have what's commonly called a big ridge over us for the next month that'll push the storms up to the North and into the Oregon-Washington area, instead of the southwest part of the state.

Ted Simons: Let's go to the three-month temperature graph. This is not refreshing for Arizona. In fact, it looks awful hot there.

Randy Cerveny: We're going to live up to a nice wintertime tourist type of thing of being a very mild, warm place. The ski industry is not going to enjoy this forecast. There's an above normal probability of having warm conditions over the Southwest.

Ted Simons: And looking at that three-month graph for precipitation, and it basically says, Arizona, we're going to go all around your border and you're not getting much.

Randy Cerveny: Once again, the storm track under a La Nina in this winter situation will push the storms up towards the Northwest as opposed to the Southwest.

Ted Simons: Will they push the storms north, too far north to help with the Rockies? I know there's a lot of concern about CAP water, the whole nine yards. Is it better for La Nina or El Nino?

Randy Cerveny: That's a very tricky thing to do. It basically feeds the headwaters of the Colorado River and it tends to be in that transition zone. Simply a difference of a couple hundred miles of the storm track can make a difference as to whether we get a lot of water on that watershed or not. The nice thing, we're coming off a fairly wet winter, so other local reservoirs are relatively full. But the Lake Mead, Lake Powell reservoirs are still below normal.

Ted Simons: If you enjoyed the winter with the rain, good luck, fella, this year. If you enjoy it warmer, you'll be happy with this forecast.

Randy Cerveny: That's it.

Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us.

Randy Cerveny: My pleasure.