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Danny Adelman Calls for Public School Funding in The Arizona Republic

Danny Adelman Calls for Public School Funding in The Arizona Republic

In his latest opinion article for The Arizona Republic, Danny Adelman urges lawmakers to use money from this year’s budget surplus to address rampant inequity across the state’s public school districts.

These additional funds could be used to improve failing infrastructure, update technology, provide appropriate security on campuses and buy quality air conditioners and buses. Instead, lawmakers are considering a budget that would give a tax cut to the wealthiest Arizonans.

Danny explains that although some districts can fill gaps through bonds and overrides, areas without sufficient property wealth are repeatedly left behind. The state consistently slashes public school funding; technology and safety standard updates are long overdue and schools haven’t been inspected in years. It’s time to put Arizona’s children first, Danny says.

A prominent voice in the fight for adequate funding, Danny frequently provides insight on the disparities in Arizona’s school districts, including in an April 2020 opinion article in The Arizona Republic, “Arizona children sit in crumbling classrooms. Who is fixing them?” He also appeared on ABC15 to shine a light on the importance of regular school inspections. ACLPI has worked tirelessly over the years to restore critical capital funding for Arizona’s schools, pushing the state to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to students, teachers and families.

Read the full article here.

Phoenix’s Declining Air Quality Makes Our Advocacy More Urgent Than Ever

Phoenix’s Declining Air Quality Makes Our Advocacy More Urgent Than Ever

The American Lung Association released its annual “State of the Air” report  ranking U.S. cities with the poorest air quality. Alarmingly, Phoenix is ranked #5 for ozone pollution, #8 for year-round particle pollution, and #13 for short-term particle pollution. The city moved up two spots in the ozone category from last year’s rankings.

Why Should We Pay Attention to Ozone and Particle Pollution Levels?

Ozone is created when nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds, such as that created by fossil fuels, interact with heat and sunlight. According to the association, ozone is a powerful lung irritant, causing inflammation and other damage. Exposure to high rates of ozone can increase susceptibility to respiratory infections, asthma rates among children, and allergic response.

Particle pollution is a combination of liquid and solid particulate matter in the air we breathe. Many of these particles are invisible to the naked eye, but when pollution levels are high, it may appear as haze. Particle pollution may trigger respiratory illness, hospitalization, and premature death. In fact, research has linked particulate pollution to increased mortality in infants, increased hospitalizations for cardiovascular disease, and more severe asthma attacks in children.

We’re Fighting for Clean Air for All Arizonans

We persistently advocate for clean air, pushing both state and federal agencies to adhere to clean-air standards designed to protect the state’s residents, including the most vulnerable: children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic only emphasized clean air’s pivotal role in healthy communities.

Most recently, we approved a settlement of our lawsuit against the EPA to address severe particulate air pollution in West Pinal County. As a result, the State must now submit a plan that contains the “best available control measures” to bring the county into compliance. The Center filed suit on behalf of the Sierra Club in April 2020 because the Environmental Protection Agency failed to approve or disapprove Arizona’s plan to address particulate air pollution.

See the American Lung Association’s full findings here.

Court Approves Settlement of Center’s Lawsuit Against EPA to Address Particulate Air Pollution

Court Approves Settlement of Center’s Lawsuit Against EPA to Address Particulate Air Pollution

In early March, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona approved a settlement and consent decree in the Center’s lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its failure to act on harmful particulate air pollution in West Pinal County. As a result, the State must now submit a plan that contains the “best available control measures” to bring the county into compliance.

The settlement and consent decree fully resolved the lawsuit in favor of the Center’s client, Sierra Club. The Center filed suit in April 2020 because the EPA has violated the Clean Air Act for years by failing to approve or disapprove Arizona’s plan to address a dangerous type of particulate air pollution known as “PM10” in West Pinal County and by failing to determine that the area exceeds national air quality standards for PM10.

Particulate air pollution refers to a mix of tiny airborne particles that are often too small to see with the naked eye. The EPA has concluded that particles smaller than or equal to 10 micrometers in diameter, about one-seventh the width of a human hair, present the greatest threat to health. When inhaled, PM10 pollution passes through the natural filters in the nose and mouth and penetrates deep into the lungs. This can cause breathing difficulties, lung tissue damage, cancer, and even premature death. Children, the elderly, and people with respiratory diseases are particularly vulnerable to the effects of PM10 pollution.

The EPA designated West Pinal County as “nonattainment” for PM10 in 2012, and PM10 levels in the area are among the worst in the nation. The health-based standard for PM10 is 150 micrograms per cubic meter. However, multiple air quality monitors in West Pinal County violated the PM10 standard numerous times from 2016 through 2020. During that time, a monitor near the City of Maricopa recorded PM10 levels of 1,367 micrograms per cubic meter — nearly 10 times the federal standard. Another monitor in Stanfield, near Casa Grande, recorded PM10 levels of 1,100 micrograms per cubic meter, or seven times the federal standard. Other monitors also regularly record high levels of PM10. Most of the exceeding monitors are located in neighborhoods.

In response to a pre-lawsuit letter from the Center, the EPA determined that West Pinal County failed to attain the PM10 standard by the relevant deadline of December 31, 2018. This means West Pinal County has been reclassified from a “moderate” to a “serious” nonattainment area for PM10. Pursuant to the consent decree requirements, the EPA has also proposed to disapprove most portions of an earlier air quality plan submitted by the State of Arizona that purported to address West Pinal County’s PM10 pollution but failed to adequately do so.

ACLPI Obtains Settlement to Improve Services for Arizona’s Children in Foster Care

ACLPI Obtains Settlement to Improve Services for Arizona’s Children in Foster Care

After six years of fighting on behalf of Arizona’s children in foster care, a federal judge granted final approval of a class-action settlement that will improve the lives of Arizona’s foster children.  The settlement requires significant improvements in care and services for the 13,500 children in Arizona’s system, as well as all future foster children.

The settlement targets four primary areas of reform:

  • Providing children in foster care effective and prompt access to behavioral health services
  • Making sure that foster children receive necessary medical and dental care
  • Increasing the number of children placed in family-like settings and reducing the use of group homes
  • Better management of caseloads so DCS workers can give their attention to the children and families in their care

Fulfilling the requirements of the settlement will take time, ACLPI attorney Anne Ronan told the Arizona Republic. “But the goal is not just about numbers, it’s about improving quality,” she continued.

For example, the agreement not only requires that the children receive the behavioral health services they need, but also that the services are effective.

The Center has been proud to represent the state’s foster children alongside lawyers from Perkins Coie and Children’s Rights, a New York-based advocacy group.

Find more information about the settlement here.

ACLPI Advocates for Just and Equitable Transition as Coal Plants Close

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) recently voted to create a landmark process to evaluate the community and economic impacts of coal plant closures and the need for Just and Equitable Transition (JET) for communities hit hard by these closures. Part of the final determination in the rate case for Tucson Electric Power (TEP), this decision is the direct result of years of pressure from tribal and non-tribal citizens groups, including the San Juan Citizens Alliance, Tó Nizhóní Ání, Diné C.A.R.E., and Black Mesa Water Coalition, which are represented by ACLPI’s energy and environmental attorney Jennifer Anderson.

For decades, coal-burning power plants have provided a reliable economic backbone for communities across the Southwest, but as one plant closes after another, jobs, revenue and opportunities quickly evaporate — leaving few options and little hope behind. Five coal-burning power plants in northern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico surround the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe. Two plants have shuttered since 2019 and the remaining three’s closure dates are quickly approaching. There’s often little notice of the closure to surrounding communities who face devastating financial repercussions.

San Juan Citizens Alliance, Tó Nizhóní Ání, Diné C.A.R.E. and Black Mesa Water Coalition argue utility companies that own and operate the plants (including TEP) have a responsibility to assist affected tribes, cities, counties and towns following these economically devastating closures. Together, the groups have fought for JET plan, including intervening in rate cases filed by TEP and Arizona Public Service (APS), as well as ensuring a $144 million agreement between APS and the Navajo Nation includes all aspects of a JET plan.

ACC’s decision is a bold step toward holding utility companies accountable, following their long history of reaping profits and abandoning communities after abrupt power plant closures. Ultimately, ACC’s process could create the mechanism for crafting JET plans as our country shifts away from coal and toward a clean energy economy.

A staff attorney at ACLPI since 2018, Jennifer is an experienced energy and environmental lawyer who has spent years of her career advocating for clean air and water, renewable energy, energy efficiency and public access to government.

Read the full press release here.