by Alice Martinez
an Diego environmental groups have released the results of an Environmental Scorecard for the area's congressional delegation. The results of the scorecard were compiled over the first session of the 104th Congress by the non-partisan League of Conservation Voters. The Scorecard tabulated votes on 12 key environmental issues in the U.S. House of Representatives and 14 in the U.S. Senate.
The scorecard draws a sharp contrast within the San Diego congressional delegation between defenders of the nation's environmental protections and those following the Congressional leaderships' agenda to roll back these protections.
Sen. Barbara Boxer 100% Sen. Diane Feinstein 93% Rep. Bob Filner (CA-50) 100% Rep. Brian Bilbray (CA-49) 31% Rep. Randy Cunningham (CA-51) 8% Rep. Ron Packard (CA-48) 0% Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA-52) 0%
"San Diego's congressional delegation is sharply split between 'environmental heroes' and 'environmental zeroes'" said Lori Saldaña, Chairperson of the San Diego Sierra Club. "But San Diego citizens remain steadfast in their commitment to defending the high level of environmental quality. We intend to educate San Diego citizens about the extremely destructive and unprecedented proposals Congressional leaders are pursuing to roll back laws that protect our air, our water, our natural resources and our health."
Leaders of San Diego environmental groups, including San Diego Audubon Society, Surfrider Foundation and the Environmental Health Coalition detailed the negative impacts proposed anti-environmental measures would have on water quality, toxics control and cleanup and loss of our limited remaining wetlands biodiversity.
The Scorecard details how, in 1995, most Members of Congress voted contrary to public opinion and against people's health and well-being. Polls have consistently shown that more than two-thirds of Americans support existing or even tougher, environmental protections. Kevin Johnson, Chair of the San Diego Chapter of the League of Conservation Voters observed, "There is strong public support for environmental laws that ensure clean air and clean water and protect endangered species, yet Congress voted to weaken these crucial laws." Based on recent surveys, Republican pollsters have warned the leadership that trying to roll back environmental laws could cost them dearly at the polls in November (The Washington Post, 1/24/96).
A total of 111 Representatives and 24 Senators - roughly 25 percent of each body - gave last year's session of Congress the worst environmental record in the 25 years the League has kept track.
The 1995 ratings shows a record high 135 Members of the House scored perfect "zero" ratings, with no correct votes on issues the League tracked. "In our 25 years, the League has never witnessed such an egregious attack on our environmental laws," said Deb Callahan, the LCV's president. The report showed the greatest partisan disparity ever: Senate Democrats averaged 89 percent pro-environment votes, Senate Republicans only 11 percent. In the House, Democrats averaged 76 percent and Republicans averaged 15 percent.
Over the year, the environment picked up the support of a core group of moderate Republicans. Led by Representative Sherwood Boehlert (NY), and including San Diego local Brian Bilbray, a growing group reaching approximately 60 Republican members began to defy their leadership in support of a safe and healthy environment.
Bilbray, however, still stands by several anti-environment votes and tries to defend them. But especially contentious is his continued defense of his vote for the "Salvage Timber Rider." Passage of this bill has lead to the logging of healthy old-growth forests at significant cost to the taxpayer (see Timber Salvage story on page 4). As of this writing Bilbray has not signed on with bipartizan efforts to repeal the rider, nor indicated an interest in doing so, saying in part that, "This is part of the balance which is needed in our environmental strategies." Compared to Packard and Hunter, Brian may not be a zero, but he's no hero either.
The National Environmental Score-card has been produced by the League of Conservation Voters since 1970. The Scorecard was developed by volunteer experts from 27 mainstream environmental conservation groups and reflects the consensus of the environmental community. The goal of the Scorecard and the League is to educate the public and to help elect pro-environmental candidates to Congress and to hold members accountable for their actions that affect the environment.
Online versions of the Scorecard can be obtained by sending e-mail lcvigc.apc.org. They are available on the World Wide Web at http://www.ecovote.org/.