As Congress inches closer to a vote on a $3.5 trillion tax and spending package — possibly by the end of this month — we, as local elected officials in a state ravaged by climate change, are waiting with baited breath.
This budget legislation contains critical provisions related to the environment and climate change. They include investments in clean and efficient energy, grid modernization, mitigation of climate-warming methane emissions, and cleaning up orphan and abandoned oil and gas wells. Those provisions would also prioritize protections for communities most vulnerable to the damaging impacts of climate change, and create good-paying jobs that are needed more than ever after the pandemic-induced economic recession.
Our nation has been wracked by natural disaster this summer. Catastrophic wildfires swept across the West, which has become the norm each year for states like ours, and Hurricane Ida has had devastating human and economic tolls. Arizona has also been hardest hit by the first-ever water shortage declared this summer on the Colorado River, which has been overallocated for years and is a major indicator of our climate crisis. This federally proclaimed shortage means our state will lose 18% of our share from the river in 2022, or 512,000 acre-feet, which will be particularly devastating to our farmers.
And we have climate change to thank for it. We need full funding of the Build Back Better plan to meet the scale and gravity of this situation.
Arizona is a prime example of a state needing every resource possible to battle this environmental and human crisis. Supporting the federal budget package in its entirety would help provide those resources and realize the Biden administration’s Build Back Better agenda. We urge U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema to vote in favor of the full, $3.5 trillion package.
Some of the Senate chamber’s swing votes have said that the cost of the tax and spending package is too high, but the cost is far greater for our communities if we don’t act now to mitigate the ever-worsening impacts of this crisis. Climate change comes with its own price tag that costs Americans their health and their hard-earned money (over half a trillion dollars in the past four years, to be exact).
A Data for Progress poll found that 70% of voters support ambitious climate action. As local leaders we want to do our part to improve climate pollution and our community resilience, but our means and resources are limited. This is a historic moment for federal leadership, and we implore Senator Sinema and all members of Congress to support this economic package. It’s a ticket to a better, more resilient future.
Sharon Bronson is a Pima County Board Supervisor and Lena Fowler is a Coconino County Board Supervisor. Both are contributors to Western Leaders Voices, a program of Western Leaders Network that helps amplify the voices of local and tribal elected leaders on conservation issues in the West.