Nearly half the state’s 170 General Assembly members scored zeroes in the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters’ most recent annual legislative scorecard.
The league awarded 82 lawmakers zero out of 100 in its 2013 conservation scorecard released earlier this month, a huge increase from the combined total of 48 previous zeroes since 1999.
Eleven Republican lawmakers in the state’s 20 Coastal Area Management Act counties scored zeroes, while four other Republicans scored 10, 11, 11 and 22.
Five Democrat lawmakers along the coast scored 25, 57, 67, 100 and 100.
Dan Crawford, the league’s governmental relations director, pointed to the political shift from Democrat to Republican control in the General Assembly after the 2010 elections for the jump in zero scores.
“Anti-environmentalism is kind of driving the decisions,” Crawford said Monday, Oct. 14.
League members said they selected nine House votes and 10 Senate votes for this year’s scorecard, including second or third readings or amendment votes on bills with issues including hydraulic fracturing – or fracking (Senate Bill 76, now law), review and expiration of existing regulations (House Bill 74, now law) and oversight commission and board changes allowing for removal of experienced members (SB 10, of which a conference resolution failed but similar aspects were included in the budget).
Crawford said league members chose what they considered the most important environmental-related bills in the 2013 session and picked readings when more lawmakers were present.
Of New Hanover County’s General Assembly members, Republican Sens. Thom Goolsby and Bill Rabon scored zeroes, Republican Reps. Rick Catlin and Ted Davis Jr. scored 11s and Democrat Rep. Susi Hamilton scored a 67.
Average scores were 34 in the House and 28 in the Senate this year, the league said.
Hamilton agreed the scorecard’s increase in zeroes may be due to more controversial environmental legislation since Republicans took control.
“We have seen a lot of very aggressive, anti-environmental law come through,” Hamilton said Oct. 14.
But Hamilton noted the scorecard included no committee votes, such as one by a House committee to block a bill (HB 298) that would have eliminated some provisions in the state’s renewable energy portfolio standards.
“We stopped that in committee, which was a coup,” Hamilton said.
Crawford said committee votes, which include only some lawmakers, were not reflected in the scorecard.
“Most committee votes aren’t recorded, so I don’t feel comfortable putting a committee vote in there,” Crawford said.
Davis said the scores fail to reflect all aspects of bills, such as a requirement in the domestic energy bill that no fracking permits may be issued until rules are implemented, and he and Catlin both said they opposed injecting fracking waste into groundwater.
“I don’t knowingly try to do anything that’s going to harm our environment,” Davis said Tuesday, Oct. 15. “Why in the world would I do anything to jeopardize my natural resources?”
Davis also questioned why second readings were included in the scorecard when lawmakers might change their votes upon learning more about a bill
“They ought to wait until the final vote that counts to score you,” Davis said.
Not all pro-environmental votes considered by the House or Senate were included in the scorecard, Catlin said. He also noted he pushed for keeping members of the Coastal Resources Commission and Environmental Management Commission in the government reorganization bill and for adding protection of limestone aquifers in the regulatory reform bill.
“I was passionate about protecting the environment,” Catlin said Oct. 14.
The scorecard report gave some positive reviews, including crediting the House for removing some “troubling provisions” in SB 76, and Crawford agreed the scorecard is just one tool to hold members accountable for their votes and only tells part of the story. He acknowledged there were some pro-environmental bills that did not make the scorecard, such as one regarding well water standards and another dealing with recyclable plastics.
Crawford commended Catlin for having an open door policy and good dialogues with environmental groups, as well as Rep. Chris Millis, R-Onslow and Pender, who got a zero on the scorecard.
A realistic goal is not for all members to score 100s but to make wiser decisions, Crawford said.
“The environment and improving our economy go hand in hand — it’s not one or the other,” Crawford said.
To read the conservation scorecard visit http://nclcv.org/scorecard