State chamber CEO bullish on water, but concerned over inflexible federal regulations

The head of Arizona’s leading business advocacy group says of the environmental challenges facing the state that it’s not water that causes him the greatest concern, but overly aggressive federal air quality regulations. 

Appearing on Sunday’s Politics Unplugged, Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry President and CEO Danny Seiden said Arizona manages its water resources well and that the state is still positioned for continued economic growth. 

Seiden said the rhetoric around the state’s water security requires some “myth busting” and that Arizona must “defeat the false narrative that we don’t have water and that we don’t have the options for these companies that are coming here.” 

Those options, Seiden says, are part of a broader water augmentation strategy begun in the previous administration. 

“There’s an augmentation strategy, whether it’s desalination or working with tribal relationships, so we continue to find those (water) supplies.” 

Seiden says his organization reminds policymakers that corporate and industrial water users are responsible stewards and are often leaders in finding new water solutions. 

“And I think that we don’t do enough to explain that industrial – manufacturer use – is about 7% total. And there are great companies, great corporate citizens – our manufacturers like Intel, like TSMC, they have wastewater plans, they have reclamation plans,” Seiden said. “In fact, over 95% of our wastewater in central Arizona is reclaimed and reused. We’re very good at this.” 

Gov. Katie Hobbs told National Public Radio last month that the previous administration took too rosy a view of the state’s water situation and that, “If we don’t take action now, we won’t have enough water.” 

Seiden is less pessimistic and says his group looks forward to partnering with the Hobbs administration. 

“I think acknowledging the problem but acknowledging that we have solutions out there – that we do have options, that’s what we’re hoping to get the page turned to,” he said. “Let’s talk about our options and how we can work together. And I think she’ll be a great partner in that.” 

On air quality, however, Seiden is concerned. He says the federal government has been overly stringent with states that have so-called “nonattainment” areas that are not within the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable air quality levels. 

“If EPA continues to increase burdensome regulations and not provide solutions, all development, all growth could be halted, not just in Arizona,” Seiden said. He says the Arizona Chamber is working within a coalition of state-level business groups facing similar federally imposed constraints on growth to take their case to the highest levels of Congress, arguing that the EPA has not been sufficiently receptive to states working together to come up with solutions. 

“Why not give us the options to fix these things?” he said. 

Seiden says the EPA should be more accommodating to states that are thinking creatively to come up with offsets, strategies that result in air quality improvements in one area to compensate for emissions increase in another.

Robert Clarke

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