Paisely v. Grumbles
UPDATE: On September 2, 2011, the Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered the funding restored. The Court's decision is attached.
The Arizona legislature recently decided that in these tough economic times clean air is something the state simply can't afford. In March, the legislature repealed a 1993 statute directing a significant percentage of lottery proceeds to expand and support public transit. The 1993 statute, which directed lottery funds to a "Local Transportation Assistance Fund" ("LTAF") was adopted in response to the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments and was included in the state's implementation plan ("SIP") as a control measure that would reduce carbon monoxide, ozone and particulate matter. Once EPA approved that SIP, it became federally enforceable by citizen suit under the Clean Air Act. This is where the Center comes into the story.
In April, Center staff attorney Joy Herr-Cardillo sent the state a required 60-day notice stating that the attempted repeal of the LTAF violated Arizona's SIP and demanding that the state restore the transit funding. When Governor Jan Brewer and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality refused to act, the Center filed this lawsuit on June 15 in federal court.
The state's failure to comply with its own SIP not only places the state in violation of federal law, but it also jeopardizes EPA approval of the state's pending EPA submissions, including the latest Phoenix air quality plan for particulate matter. This plan is especially important given that in 1996, the EPA classified Phoenix as a serious PM-10 (particles of 10 micrometers or less) non-attainment area under the Clean Air Act.
In other words, the air in Phoenix is already very bad to breathe without discontinuing important control measures that have been in place for decades.
Instead of reducing public transit, the state should be expanding it. Ironically, if the plan is disapproved (which EPA is proposing to do), the state will face sanctions including loss of federal highway funds. Of course, Phoenix residents could face something far worse - many more years of breathing in poisonous air.