“Green” Group Gives Legislators Low Scores on Environmental Issues

Scorecard from League of Conservation Voters reveals poor ratings on bills to protect NJ's environment

Credit: League of Conservation Voters
Apparently, it still isn’t easy being green — particularly in the New Jersey Legislature.

At least that’s the conclusion of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, which issued a scorecard yesterday that indicated lawmakers are sliding in their ratings for voting on environmental bills. It is a trend previously cited by more prominent and politically active groups, such as the New Jersey Environmental Federation and the New Jersey Sierra Club.

The NJLCV is generally viewed as a more moderate environmental group than the aforementioned organizations, one not prone to lash out at lawmakers on either side of the aisle. Instead, it prefers trying to work on bipartisan measures to advance its goals. But many of the groups that belong to the league often were at odds with other environmentalists over conservation issues before elected officials.

In the end, those goals often were thwarted in the current legislative session.

Most notably, lawmakers failed to approve a measure that would have provided up to $200 million a year in funding to preserve open spaces and farmland, and protect historic treasures. It was a top legislative priority of many of the organizations that belong to the league, who argued that the state would run out of money to preserve open spaces without a new infusion of funding.

The other failures listed by the NJLCV included the Legislature’s refusal to combat climate change by not overriding a veto by Gov. Chris Christie that prevented New Jersey from rejoining a regional effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

“Clearly, the New Jersey Legislature is headed in the wrong direction,’’ said Ed Potosnak, executive director of thr NJLCV. “The number of legislator receiving an 80 percent or better on NLCV’s scorecard has fallen in both the Senate and Assembly. Both chambers are failing. The Senate earned a dismal average of just 68 percent, with the Assembly close behind at only 67 percent,” Potosnak said.

Among other issues cited by the organization was the Legislature’s failure to reverse a controversial rule to waive critical environmental regulations put in place to protect public health and safeguard natural resources.

“We are deeply troubled about the recent downturn in support for conserving the environment among our elected officials,’’ said Debbie Mans, the chair of NJLCV. “Out children are counting on adults to stand up for their health and wellbeing. It is clear from looking at the scores of our legislators that we need more environmental champions in the Legislature.

That view was endorsed by the New Jersey Environmental Federation, which issued a similar report this past July. Its own scorecard found less than half (48 percent) of lawmakers supporting pro-environment positions over the past three years.

“This scorecard shows that despite New Jersey’s proud legacy of environmental leadership, our critical environmental and health protections have been put at risk by state officials these past few years. The governor’s contribution to this crisis is well documented, but the state Legislature’s is not. This scorecard corrects that,’’ said Amy Goldsmith, director of the federation.

The federation noted pro-environmental positions succeeded on only four of the 18 bills scored—11 times blocked primarily by Democrats and three times by Republican refusal to override vetoes by the governor.