Republican voting record on the environment slammed

A system of scoring the environmental voting record of US Congressmen has awarded the Republicans an appalling result and the Democrats a generally good one.

The Republicans were awarded an average of just 12% for their votes concerning the environment in the Senate, and 17% in the House, in the 2000 National Environmental Scorecard released by the non-profit organisation, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) on 24 October. The Democrats fared considerably better in the survey covering 1999 and 2000 voting, averaging 79% for their environmental voting record in the Senate and 77% in the House.

Every representative and senator has been assigned a percentage score for all votes taken on “conservation and public health protections” in the 106th Congress, based on the consensus recommendation of experts from 25 non-partisan environmental groups, where a 100% score indicates the strongest environmental commitment, while a zero percent shows a consistent voting pattern against these areas.

LCV, which has been monitoring votes since 1970, said that for the sixth consecutive year Congressional environmental scores averaged below 50% nationally, with scores of 43% for the Senate and 47% for the House. The organisation criticised a majority in Congress for voting to jeopardise clean water and air protections, and for using anti-environment riders on appropriations bills to disguise their efforts to weaken environmental and public health laws.

The report shows that for their votes in 1999 and 2000, 34 senators and 18 representatives scored a zero, compared with eight representatives and seven senators earning 100%. LCV highlighted several environmental health measures, which it considered important but were defeated in the House and Senate, including a bill protecting against arsenic in drinking water and promoting the removal of harmful toxic sediments from lakes and rivers (see related story). The House also passed a rider on the same bill that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from informing people about levels of smog in their communities.

LCV also criticised the use of riders in attempts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling (see related story), to deny funding to new national monuments named by the President and to reduce wilderness protections in Utah. None of the efforts to rollback public lands protections were successful. However, bipartisan effort to pass the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (see related story) was praised.

“The American public clearly believes that Congress should work to pass and fund stronger, not weaker, environmental and public health protections,” said Betsy Loyless, LCV’s Political Director. “However, especially in this election year, it’s clear from the environmental scores that too many in Congress have the wrong priorities – they invest in partisan politics and special interest pandering at the expense of bipartisan progress to protect our water, air and lands.”

LCV added that the states with the highest environmental averages in the Senate and House are Rhode Island (100% in Senate, 88% in House), Vermont (88%, 100%) and Massachusetts (88%, 94%). States receiving the lowest scores are Idaho (0%, 2%), Wyoming (0%, 3%) and Oklahoma (0%, 4%).

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