Environmental scorecard: Weston legislators get their grades

The bipartisan Connecticut League of Conservation Voters has released its annual Environmental Scorecard for 2012 and Weston legislators have received widely varying grades.

State Senators John McKinney (R-28) and Toni Boucher (R-26), received perfect grades and scored 100%, while State Rep. John Shaban (R-135) earned a low score of 53%.

The average score for all legislators in 2011 was 76% versus the average score of 91% for 2012. This year 53 more legislators earned 80% or higher than in 2011.

The League of Conservation Voters graded all state senators and representatives on a 0% to 100% scale based on their votes on environmental legislation determined important by the league. In addition to analyzing final House and Senate votes, the league looked at every vote cast.

The 2012 Environmental Scorecard grades legislators on their votes on nine major environmental bills, including bills on outdoor wood furnaces, phosphorus in water and lawn fertilizers, mattress recycling, safe pharmaceutical disposal, and sewer pollution right to know.

Legislators received a 100% score for pro-environment votes, 0% for anti-environment votes. The league said it did not score absences or abstentions.

“The main reason we have environmental protection laws and regulations is to protect people’s health. We expect clean air, clean water, and landscapes free from harmful substances. Our state legislators are in a unique position of advancing or blocking progress on these core needs on a statewide level,” said Martha Phillips, CTLCV board member, on the organization’s website.

Legislative champion

The league named 11 legislative champions on environmental issues, including Mr. McKinney, of Fairfield, saying, “As the Senate minority leader, Senator McKinney, a longtime environmental champion, was a fighting voice for our issues in the Senate. He continues to fight for efforts to preserve Connecticut’s open space and cleanup of Long Island Sound.”

On the other side of the spectrum, Mr. Shaban, who represents Weston, Easton and a part of Redding, was given low marks for his votes on several environmental bills. In response, he said the scorecard “has questionable metrics and ignores the facts.”

“Unfortunately, some organizations look at issues with a simple black and white approach when, in fact, there are a thousand shades of gray,” Mr. Shaban, of Redding, said in his statement. “While the score is calculated by simple Yes or No votes on particular bills as they move through the process, the score also ignores the reason for certain No’ votes, as well as the work that people do to advance a particular cause…”

He pointed to his No vote on the recent GMO labeling bill, which would have required the labeling of genetically engineered foods, or “GMOs, a league scorecard issue.

Mr. Shaban is the assistant ranking member of the legislatures’ Environment Commission and an environmental attorney. He was on the task force, he said, “to draft a more useful and appropriate legislation to effect GMO labeling.

Last session, he said, he supported the plan to improve and increase open space in Connecticut, water conservation, and to reduce phosphorus in our water.

“It’s a shame really,” said Mr. Shaban, “because devices like these scorecards can distract people who are actually trying to promote conservation. Bad policy or poorly written legislation does nothing to protect our environment.”

“You can’t quantify a legislator’s support for certain issues by shallow and simple snapshots,” said Mr. Shaban. “My constituents know that I will continue to support meaningful legislation that will protect and preserve our beautiful state.”

100% rating

Speaking about her 100% rating, Sen. Boucher, of Wilton, who represents part of Weston, said in her statement, “I have been a longtime environmental champion and will always fighting for these issues in the Senate. “I care about clean air and water as a matter of public health and safety,” she added.

A a leader of the Transportation Committee, Ms. Boucher said, she has worked to focus the state on mass transit in the most heavily congested corridor in the nation, “and successfully fought for mass transit and rail signal upgrades, new rail cars, and proposed and helped pass the first rail passenger bill of rights in an effort to get more commuters off the roads and out of their vehicles.”

She has worked to protect open space and to get power lines buried, she added.

“Protecting our beautiful state’s environmental assets has been and will continue to be a priority for me and my district!”

During the 2012 legislative session, Ms. Boucher said she supported bills that “will help to ensure the safe disposal of pharmaceuticals; reduce harmful levels of phosphorus in Connecticut’s rivers, lakes and streams; reduce air pollution generated by outdoor wood burning furnaces; and modernize the state’s coastal zone management laws in a way that balances environmental concerns with the rights of property owners.”

This is the first year the league has reported the lifetime scores of legislators. Mr. McKinney has an 86% lifetime score, Ms. Boucher has a lifetime score of 74%; and Mr. Shaban has a 55% lifetime score.

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