(The Center Square)– Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs is confident that the Water Policy Council will be able to develop recommendations with bipartisan support, even though the Arizona Farm Bureau and Arizona Senate Republicans exited the group last week.
“Yeah, absolutely. We still have very diverse representation on the council with a variety of different interests, including Rep. Gail Griffin, who’s committed to sticking it out,” Hobbs told The Center Square on Tuesday. “There are still agricultural interests represented and rural interests, which is really critical. We’re gonna continue to move forward and bring forward ideas that help us strategically plan for our water future.”
The governor added that she’s not concerned about more departures either.
“No, no. We’ve been talking to folks and I think we’re not gonna see anymore,” she said.
The Water Policy Council was established by Hobbs in January, and began meeting in May, with the aim of creating “policy and legislative recommendations” for the Executive Branch to propose to state lawmakers come December, in time for the next legislative session.
However, those who left the council said that it is operating with an outcome already in mind, and that the Hobbs administration is simply pushing for that, namely the Environmental Defense Fund-backed “Local Groundwater Stewardship Areas.”
“Unlike other forums at both the Legislature and the Department of Water Resources (“Department”) in which collaborative discussions have led to the formation of responsible water policy, your Rural Groundwater Committee has operated, both in its composition and process, towards the singular pursuit of rubberstamping a special interest group’s California-style regulatory overreach,” Sen. Sine Kerr, R-Buckeye, wrote in a letter to the governor.
Griffin, who chairs the House Natural Resources, Energy, and Water Committee, has been opposed to the solutions touted by the Hobbs administration, but remains on the council. In a document from her office, she argues that the EDF legislation would “weaponize” the Arizona Department of Water Resources and open up the door to hefty groundwater regulation, which she says has the potential to trample on “private property rights.”
“While the proposed legislation (HB 2731 and SB 1306) (the “EDF Legislation”) may be portrayed as a giving “local” communities “tools” to help manage local groundwater resources and secure their water future, the provisions are far from “local” or voluntary,” the packet states.