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August 23, 2011

Host: Ted Simons

BLM Arizona

  |   Video
  • Jim Kenna, the state director for the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona discusses issues related to the natural resources that are managed by his agency.
  • Jim Kenna - BLM Arizona State Director
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: BLM, land, natural resources, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The state director of the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona is moving to California next month. To lead Bureau of Land ManagementH BLM in that state. We thought we'd talk to director John Kavanagh one more time about the millions -- Jim Kenna about that. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us. You're moving, how come?

Jim Kenna: One of the things that happens when you agree to be an executive in the Bureau of Land Management is you serve at the pleasure of the secretary, and the secretary says we need you over in California, and my answer is yes.

Ted Simons: Yes. I know different beast over there, but probably some similar issues. I know in Arizona the border has been a major issue for you and your office. Talk to us about, and are we seeing improvements down there?

Jim Kenna: We are. We're seeing improvements and we're really hitting our stride I think in the last year. We talked about the border before, and we were always seeing some sort of overall declining border activity, but we had problem areas, and significant problem areas in Arizona. Particularly the two national monuments in the center of the state. Those cases we were seeing an increase in -- an uptick in activity that was wholly unacceptable. But a very big problem. So we had to figure out how to address it and we really tried to do it by focusing on three things. One, to increase or improve the safety, public safety out there. Two, to protect the public resources in those national monuments, and three, to do it cooperatively. Because it's too big a problem for anyone -- any one entity or agency to tackle.

Ted Simons: And there was cooperation, border patrol, sheriffs, DPS.

Jim Kenna: And it's been phenomenal. We have had the combat transnational threats, which was put in place by the homeland security, we have seen sheriffs step up, we've seen the department of public safety on the state side, we've seen the border patrol, we've seen immigration and customs enforcement step up. And we've seen tremendous efforts cooperatively, focus patrols, saturation patrols, night operations, shared intelligence, and we've done tactical things. We've put Normandy barriers in some places we wouldn't normally think about to move activity. We've taken off over 31 tons of garbage by cleaning off lay-up areas and listening post areas. And the listing posts are used by the drug cartel to direct traffic. And we've seen market improvements. And now we need to work this over a period of years and grow that geography that we're comfortable with how secure it is.

Ted Simons: Something else we've talked about in the past is the idea of renewable energy projects on disturbed lands, be they mines and landfills. How is that going?

Jim Kenna: Really well. I think probably two thoughts here that are really important. One is, again, we are seeing a lot of people step to the plate. Arizona State University has held three solar summits, the governor has been there, there's been an executive order out of the governor's office. So you have an alignment of national policy, state policy, and then the utilities in Arizona are working with us. There's a coalition of environmental groups that have become very, very active in these issues. We have the potential in Arizona, I think, to get to a shared consensus vision in about 18 months.

Ted Simons: So nothing has been chosen in terms of land sites yet, but things are being looked at.

Jim Kenna: We do have projects that are in motion. And if you look at where it is happening, it's happening where we have available east-west transmission capacity. So along the gila power line, for example. And you're seeing things like conversion of agricultural lands, you're seeing -- and that's important to the state in terms of the economics of it too. There's 435 jobs tied to building that project. Right now in a time when we're wrestling employment issues. So that you're seeing, and that is a disturbed land. We will ask the question about should that expand out on to private lands, or on to public lands from private lands. It brings up policy questions like should we have large number of very, very small plants in Arizona, or a small number of very, very large plants?

Ted Simons: I mentioned mines as part of the disturbed lands that were looking for renewable energy projects. Unsafe mines in Arizona has been a problem, I know for BLM you're looking at this, you're trying to do something about it. Is any progress being made? There's so many of those things out there.

Jim Kenna: Yeah, there are. And it's a very, very big problem. And it is going to take years to remedy the problem. So we need to keep the focus on it, we need to build as much capacity as we can. We seen a decline on the capacity of the stateside, we're doing our best to try and help with that. We're trying to inventory all the sites, first part of this is understanding the scope of the problem. And what we're finding is that it is huge. It will take, I would guess, decades to do the public safety clean-up we really need to do across this state.

Ted Simons: Last question, you're leaving, but you've got your ideas and you'd like to see some of those ideas moving ahead. What advice would you give to the incoming director?

Jim Kenna: Well, I think probably there are a lot of things that are over-the-counter workload, like the energy workload we talked about, the border stuff that needs to be in the day-to-day picture but there's also the long-term stuff, the heritage stuff of what we hand offer to the next generation, and I think that's really important as well. If you look at -- this is a very, very well endowed state in terms of community-based conservation lands. We have over 2 million acres in national monument and national conservation areas. Around that in the last two years, we've had 366 youth get work. And people like Maricopa County are stepping up, city of Phoenix, Audubon, student conservation association, the Phoenix public schools, there's curriculum being developed. It is really exciting.

Ted Simons: Well, good luck in California. Thanks so much for the work you've done here, and thanks for joining us tonight on "Horizon."

Jim Kenna: Thank you, Ted.

Libya Conflict and Gas Prices

  |   Video
  • Michelle Donati of AAA Arizona discusses what a resolution to the civil conflict in Libya could mean to gas prices in Arizona
  • Michelle Donati - AAA Arizona
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: libya, conflict, gas,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.

Ted Simons: Six months ago, Libya was producing about 1.6 million barrels of oil a day. But civil war brought that country's oil production to a stand still, and now the question is how a resolution to the Libyan conflict will impact oil prices and in turn gas prices at the pump. Here to talk about that is Michelle Donati, public affairs supervisor for Triple A Arizona. Good to see you again. What have oil prices been doing here now that the rebels are pushing toward taking over?

Michelle Donati: Oil prices have been on a roller coaster ride. Just a couple of weeks ago the price of crude was trading at a near $100 per barrel range. It's since fallen to the low 80 range, and that was following the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating. Now with the news of the Gadhafi regime coming to an end, there hasn't been a lot of movement. We saw prices trek downward yesterday, prices kind of rebounded today, so not a whole lot of movement in either direction. At this point it's really too soon to tell, but analysts believe that Libyan crude will be coming back on the market and there’s really no clear time line. Some are sake could it take four to six weeks, others are saying it could take years. It's too soon to tell what this will mean for long-term or when this will start to -- when this will impact market prices here in the United States.

Ted Simons: It sounds like the oil exports basically stopped during the fight, you get the oil exports resumed, you got more supply, you should get lower prices.

Michelle Donati: Right. This is certainly good news, because we are -- the end of the regime means a level of uncertainty is being removed from the equation. So that's the good news for the market. But it is too soon to tell when and to what extent we'll see the effects of this on the market. And until really we start to see supply -- Libyan supplies back on the market, any effects that we see in terms of positive oil effects are going to be purely psychological versus the effects of a tangible product being put back on the market.

Ted Simons: Having that stability, do we know how much damage was done to Libyan oil fields and to pipelines?

Michelle Donati: You know, to my knowledge that isn't something that has been assessed. So I believe that is why there's such a widespread of time, a time frame that analysts are forecasting right now. As I mentioned, some are saying four to six weeks, others are saying several years. It is going to depend on the extent of the damage.

Ted Simons: And how important is Libyan oil to the world economy, to the world oil supply? I understand this is considered pretty high quality stuff.

Michelle Donati: It is. It's dubbed as Cadillac grade oil. So it's a pretty high quality oil, it's accounted for about 2% of global oil production, about 85% of the oil actually goes or went to Europe when it was being produced. About 5% to the United States. However, despite the fact that we didn't really receive a lot of the Libyan oil when it was being produced, it still had a considerable effect on U.S. markets, and that's because there was a fear that unrest could spread as well as speculation. So it did have an adverse effect on consumers in the market when that -- when production was stopped in February and hopefully we'll start to see some of that -- some positive effects here in the near future.

Ted Simons: And including in Arizona of course. Talk about Arizona gas prices now. I don't think Libya has too much of an effect right now, but what are we seeing? It seems like prices are going down.

Michelle Donati: We're in a pretty good position in Arizona. The statewide average didL is $3.34. We've had the lowest fuel average in the country for seven weeks now.

Ted Simons: And how come? What's going on?

Michelle Donati: This is a good problem to have. Prices are still 60 cents above where they were this time last year. However, if you look at the grand scheme of things, Arizona, we pay less tax on fuel than the majority of the country, so if you look at California, they pay about 66 cents per gallon on -- in taxes on fuel. Arizona pays just over 37 cents. So each state does vary, and Arizona we're below the national average and one of the lower states when it comes to that. Also, Arizona, we expanded our -- we have more even supplies. So a few years ago there was the expansion of the east pipeline, and before that we were more reliant on the west line for fuel. With more even supplies, there's more competition, and it's really put us in a better position just overall in terms of what we pay at the pump.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Michelle, thanks for joining us.

Michelle Donati: Thank you.

Medical Marijuana Certifications

  |   Video
  • According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, eight doctors have issued nearly half of all medical marijuana certifications in Arizona. DHS Director Will Humble discusses his response to the data.
  • Will Humble - Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: marijuana, health, doctors,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Eight doctors are responsible for nearly half of all medical marijuana recommendations in Arizona. That's according to the state department of health. What's DHS doing about it? Here to tell us is Will Humble, director of the Arizona department of health services. Good to see you here. I know one of the things you're doing, you're going to a couple medical boards and saying something doesn't seem right.

Will Humble: Yeah. Last week we looked at the data set, we were up to about 10,000 certifications now, so it's about a third of the year has gone by, we're at the 10,000 mark. So we did a little check on the database a couple weeks ago to see if the high-volume certification doctors are going to the controlled substances database to look at their patient's profile so they can make an informed decision. It turns out that eight out of the 10 were routinely not checking the database, and yet were making attestations on our certification form that they had.

Ted Simons: The database is like a DEA database to show if there was a problem in the past?

Will Humble: It's the board of pharmacy here in the -- in Arizona, it's a state database, whereby folks that get a controlled substance prescription, something like oxycontin, that data gets entered into the database. The idea is the physician should check that database with the patient on their table, they're look at the database to see if that patient has been to a different Doc and maybe got a prescription for something else for the same medical condition. Not that -- just because a patient has a prescription for a narcotic pain killer doesn't disqualify him from a marijuana certification, but that Doc should check.

Ted Simons: You're talking about doctors who maybe have hundreds and hundreds of recommendations, yet by checking and you can check this, may have gone to this database 40 times.

Will Humble: Yeah. Well, we had one physician whose written 1300 certifications, so 13% of all of them have been written by one Doc, and this doctor had only been to the database 50, 60 times. So the majority of the time the physician was not checking. We had three other Docs who had written hundreds of certifications who don't even have a log-in. And yet their attestations say they have.

Ted Simons: And this raises other questions, we were talking about this, because you're saying if they're not doing this, what else are they not doing?

Will Humble: This is one problem. The attestation is incorrect on the certification form, but for me as a public health official, what else aren't they doing? Because we also asked them to look at 12 months worth of medical records before they sign the certification. Well, are they really doing that, or did they just sign the certification? Did they really have a conversation with their patients about the alternatives to marijuana for treating their medical condition? Maybe, maybe not. We don't know, because the suggestion is that if you'll make one attestation that's not right, maybe you'll make a few.

Ted Simons: What happens do these doctors the board will investigate?

Will Humble: We made the referrals to the medical boards, one to the naturopathic board and one to the Arizona medical board, so there were three M.D.s and five naturopathic physicians, and those boards are responsible for the follow-up from here. We'll coordinate activities if they want us to, but it's really in their hands now.

Ted Simons: What happens to the -- let's say the board investigates. And the names get out. And there's disciplinary action. What happens to the patients who were recommended by these doctors?

Will Humble: That's really what this is all about in the end anyway. Making sure that the physicians are acting in their patients' best interest. That's one thing. The other thing is that from the very beginning, way back in November of '10 we talked about our efforts to keep this a medical American program and not let it devolve into a recreational program as is the case in other states. This is one tool we have to keep the Docs honest so they really do full assessments on their patients and the people that end up with certifications actually really have medical conditions that the qualify, and not just oh, my leg.

Ted Simons: Is it still the situation where patients and caregivers, it's still OK for some of these folks to grow their own?

Will Humble: Basically because the dispensary portion of the law is on hold pending the litigation, folks are still getting the qualified patient registration card and if they ask permission to cultivate they can get permission to grow up to 12 plants for their own medical use. Caregivers can have up to five patients, which is 60 plants.

Ted Simons: Where do we stand in this legal situation?

Will Humble: There's about six lawsuits in total of various kinds, the big one is really that issue in federal court sort of, is this against federal law, and if so which portions are against federal law. Once we have an answer with that, we'll be in a better position to make the downstream decisions about what do we do next.

Ted Simons: Are you seeing as many doctors willing to recommend, willing to certify as you thought you would see, and if not, first of all, are you seeing as many as you thought you would see?

Will Humble: I think it's probably about what we thought. These eight Docs we referred to the medical board a couple weeks ago wrote about half the certifications in total. But there are a large number of Docs that have written a handful of certifications. And -- but here's the one thing we are still working on. That is, to get primary care Docs in a better position to have that conversation in their office with their patients, because let's face it. Docs didn't do training in medical school for marijuana, or their residency. So this is a new thing, this conversation, and so we're still working on getting Docs up to speed so they can have an intelligent conversation with their patients.

Ted Simons: I asked the question because there's some who see the -- this information you're giving regarding these certain doctors maybe have a chilling effect on other doctors. Fewer doctors willing to recommend, the fewer options patients have and they see an overall effort on your part specifically, but others as well, in state government to in some way, shape, or form gut this law. How do you respond?

Will Humble: I see -- the newspaper articles come out, you can read the comments, and I read those, oh, god, look, here's the thing. We really are after a couple different things. To make sure that physicians are doing a full assessment of their patients, and they have their patients' best interests in mind and not just revenue. Number two, to try to keep the program as medical as we and can not let it become recreational. Or largely recreational like the other states. So that's -- those are our primary objectives. I know there's a lot of people that see it otherwise. But that's just the truth. And you can believe me Ted or other people can or can't, I can't control that. I can just tell you like it is.

Ted Simons: You're not against the will of the people, is that what you're saying.

Will Humble: That's right.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.