The Tribune had a recent story that caught my eye.
Honeywell International has agreed to pay a $5 million civil fine and contribute an additional $1 million to fund a regional climate-change study to settle charges the company violated Arizona clean-water laws for more than 30 years.
Actually, it's not the story that caught my eye, it was this line:
"contribute an additional $1 million to fund a regional climate-change study"
That seems odd, Clean Water Act settlements aren't supposed to be used to fund climate studies.
Then I dug a little deeper to see the details of what Honeywell's million dollars is really funding.
The complaint says that the money goes to...the Western Governor's Association to be earmarked for the Western Climate Initiative.
Isn't the Western Climate Initiative one of the Governor's pet projects?
Here's how the Business Journal described it.
Napolitano and other western state governors, including California's Arnold Schwarzenegger and New Mexico's Bill Richardson, are working together in a group called the Western Climate Initiatives to boost renewable energy production and cut emissions.
The Complaint further states that the money will be used by WCI to develop regional strategies to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gasses.
Wait a second. The DEQ Compliance and Enforcement Handbook says that these "Supplemental Environmental Projects" have to be used to advance the objectives of the statute that caused the violation.
All SEPs must advance at least one of the objectives of the environmental statutes that are the basis of the enforcement action...
Honeywell violated the Clean Water Act. How can the governor's people demand that Honeywell give $ 1 million to the WGA to fund her efforts to reduce greenhouse gases?
Even if Honeywell's money could be used to fund the governor's greenhouse gas project, the DEQ handbook would prohibit the payment because of DEQ's involvement.
A project must not provide additional resources to support specific activities performed by ADEQ employees or ADEQ contractors.
That's pretty clear. But DEQ Director Steve Owens is Chairman of one of the WCI Committees. So he can't sign a consent decree to force Honeywell to fund a project that he's working on--even if it is the Governor's favorite project.
Let's assume that the Honeywell fine is legitimate. Then at a minimum, the governor violated DEQ rules and hijacked the money to her own pet project.
But what if the fine's not legitimate? What if the deal looked more like this one?
Gov. Janet Napolitano eliminated key elements of a major transportation initiative this week, agreeing not to tax homebuilders in exchange for their support and $100,000 to kick-start the campaign.
The WCI is running short of funds. What if she needed money to prop up her project and decided that instead of going after local industries for contributions, she would just go after Honeywell for fines? Or you can look at it the other way. What if she let Honeywell off the hook for a $1 million check to her project.
The Western Climate Initiative gives Governor Napolitano a high profile place on the national stage at a time when she needs a high profile place on the national stage. Now that effort is fully funded, however, that funding clearly violates DEQ rules.
What went on behind the scenes? The Tribune was able to expose the "Secret Deal with Developers" because they found the letter that the Governor made the homebuilders sign in order to memorialize the exchange of the $100,000.
What's in the emails behind the Honeywell deal? Finding that answer may take more than the Freedom of Information act. That may take a subpoena.
Golly, I wonder who can issue one of those?