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Arizona Environmental Agency Cutbacks Significant, Says Report

A new report says funding and staffing cuts at the state’s environmental protection agency could prevent it from adequately protecting public health and the environment.
December 20, 2019, 11am PST | Camille Fink
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Alan Stark

"Staffing and budget cuts over the last decade have left state environmental protection agencies woefully under-powered, to the detriment of the air we breathe and the water we drink, a new report says. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is among the hardest hit," writes Elizabeth Whitman.

The report from the Environmental Integrity Project says funding for pollution control programs dropped by 29 percent and staffing by 32 percent at the Arizona agency. "These figures put Arizona in the top 10 of 48 states whose environmental regulation departments lost the highest proportion of employees (number three in the country) and funding (number seven) between 2008 and 2018," notes Whitman.

State officials say the organizational cutbacks are not affecting the agency’s ability to carry out its work, and they point to organizational efficiencies that have resulted in higher compliance rates and lower permit application times.

"But the report — and [Eric] Schaeffer, the EIP director — rebuffed the notion that increased efficiency compensates for budget and staffing cuts. They disagreed with the idea that faster permitting meant better, safer permitting," says Whitman.

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Published on Monday, December 9, 2019 in Phoenix New Times
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