EPW's 2003 Scorecard on the League of Conservation Voters

LCV is an arm of the Democratic Party

Issues/Policies Scored:

  • New Source Review Reform
  • Clear Skies
  • Clean Water
  • Healthy Forests
  • Brownfields/Superfund
  • Non-Road Diesel Rule
  • Bush FY ’04 Environmental Budget
  • Climate Change
  • Bush Hydrogen Research Initiative
  • Overall LCV Grade: F


    Every year, the League of Conservation Voters scores members of Congress on their definition of what constitutes “key environmental votes.” Today, the LCV released its report card on the Bush Administration’s environmental policies. This year, the EPW Committee will turn the tables, and score the LCV.

    The LCV claims a monopoly on which congressional votes and regulatory issues are considered “pro-environment.” But the LCV scorecard is a canard, and the group itself has proven to be just another appendage of the Democratic Party. The only green thing the LCV has ever done is raise money for Democratic candidates.

    Typically, the LCV inflates Democratic performance by scoring such “environmental” votes as abortion and campaign finance reform (notably, they scored President Bush on international abortion policy). On the other hand, the LCV failed to score the 2001 vote on Brownfields, the most successful, overwhelmingly bipartisan piece of environmental legislation ever passed. It’s forgetfulness also extended to the bipartisan Pacific Salmon Recovery Act.

    Why were such votes omitted, and others, so obviously irrelevant to the environmental debate, included? Because the result was lower scores for Republicans-an intended result, no doubt. Senate Democrats averaged a score of 82 (out of 100) while Senate Republicans averaged 9; House Democrats reaped an 81, while House Republicans averaged just 16.

    The LCV’s vote scoring methods are downright deceitful. For example, back in 1999, the LCV scored a vote on funding renewable energy. The vote, however, was merely procedural-made on a motion to table an irresponsible increase in such funding. Though many Republicans voted to table, they did support a 25% increase in funding for renewable energy that year. But, of course, the vote was never scored.

    Just look at the LCV’s “Dirty Dozen” List, which, according to the group, is designed to “strategically target vulnerable anti-environment candidates and launch campaigns to educate voters about their voting record.” In 2002, 11 of the 12 congressional candidates, both House and Senate, were Republicans.

    In the 2002 campaign cycle, the LCV Political Action Committee demonstrated its extreme bias in favor of Democrats. In the House, according to the campaign funding website OpenSecrets.Org, the LCV PAC gave $66,970 to 57 Democrats and $38,228 to 19 Republicans; in the Senate, the LCV gave $19,817 to 9 Democratic candidates, and not a cent to Republicans.

    A quick look at the LCV website offers further proof of the group’s voracious appetite for money. Right under the link to the Bush scorecard one will find a fundraising solicitation: “Read the 2003 Presidential Report Card! Spread the word about President Bush’s environmental report card! Contribute to LCV’s work to hold the Bush Administration accountable for it’s anti-environment actions.”

    LCV would rather score political points and fundraise than take constructive action on the environment. That goes for other leading environmental groups, who have raised millions of dollars to advance their partisan efforts. In 1999, according to the Sacramento Bee, the top 10 environmental groups raised over $3.5 billion.

    David Nolte, formerly a grass-roots organizer with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Alliance, said of these groups, “This is not about conservation. It’s marketing.”

    As the Bee reported, “No allies of industry, [environmental groups] have become industries themselves, dependent on a style of salesmanship that fills mailboxes across America with a never-ending stream of environmentally unfriendly junk mail, reduces the complex world of nature to simplistic slogans, emotional appeals and counterfeit crises, and employs arcane accounting rules to camouflage fund raising as conservation.”

    Six national environmental groups, including Defenders of Wildlife, NRDC, the Sierra Club, and Greenpeace, spend so much on fund raising and overhead they don’t have enough left to meet the minimum benchmark for environmental spending-60 percent of annual expenses–recommended by the American Institute for Philanthropy. Eleven of the nation’s 20 largest environmental groups include fund-raising bills in their tally of money spent protecting the environment, but don’t make that clear to members.

    According to OpenSecrets.Org, these groups are also reliable backers of Democratic candidates. The Sierra Club, for example, gave 97 percent of its contributions to Democrats in 2002, and a mere 3 percent to Republicans. How about Friends of the Earth? Just as pathetic: 98 percent to Democrats, 2 percent to Republicans.

    The EPW majority has compiled a list of several important environmental regulatory and legislative initiatives spearheaded by the Bush Administration since 2001, and scored LCV’s position on each of them. Because LCV runs in lockstep with other members of the Big Green coalition, their scores reflect those of the environmental movement generally.

    Not surprisingly, LCV opposed nearly every Bush environmental policy. None of this opposition is rooted in common sense, balance, or in any fair consideration of whether the policies at hand are good for the environment. Instead, it’s about an extreme, partisan ideology that simply can’t stomach a positive Republican environmental agenda, which is exactly what President Bush has constructed.

    So how did LCV do? Not well. The group got a big fat F, for either defending a status quo in dire need of reform or legislation that won’t solve the nation’s environmental problems.


    New Source Review Reform
    On December 31st, the Bush Administration finalized a rule to reform the New Source Review Program (NSR). The reforms mirrored those proposed in 1996 under Carol Browner’s EPA. Bob Perciasepe, head of President Clinton’s EPA Office of Air and Radiation, publicly supported NSR reforms that are similar to those recommended by President Bush.

    LCV opposes NSR reform. Who supports it? The National Governor’s Association, the Environmental Council of the States, the Carpenter’s Union, Resources for the Future, National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Conference of Black Mayors, Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and many others.

    NSR was in dire need of reform. NSR blocked businesses from installing new pollution control technologies, which provide greater, more efficient environmental protections.

    Many environmental groups contend NSR reform is bad for the environment. In fact, just the opposite is true. According to EPA, NSR reform is “a net benefit for the environment.” According to Howard Gruenspecht of Resources for the Future, a non-partisan think tank, “The New Source Review retards environmental progress and wastes resources. To assure sustainable environmental progress, NSR should be replaced with effective and efficient policies.”



    Clear Skies
    Clear Skies is the most aggressive presidential initiative in history to reduce power plant emissions. Clear Skies will reduce emissions of mercury, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides by 70 percent by 2018.

    In 2010, according to EPA, early reductions in fine particle and ozone levels under Clear Skies would result in 6,400 fewer premature deaths and $44 billion in annual health and visibility benefits nationwide each year. By 2020, Americans would experience approximately 12,000 fewer premature deaths; 7,400 fewer cases of chronic bronchitis; 11,900 fewer hospitalizations/emergency room visits for cardiovascular and respiratory symptoms; and 15 million fewer days with respiratory illnesses and symptoms, including work loss days, restricted activity days, and days with asthma attacks.

    Also, Clear Skies, in addition to substantial environmental benefits, would allow economic growth and prosperity to continue. The LCV, on the other hand, supports counter proposals that will inhibit clean coal technologies. They also would drive up electricity prices and exacerbate the country’s natural gas crisis. The result is both bad for the environment and the economy. Why?

    As the Wall Street Journal reported last week, high natural gas prices in the U.S. are wreaking havoc on key domestic industries, forcing them to close plants, lay off workers and move their plants abroad.

    What are the consequences for the environment? Because many companies would be forced to relocate overseas, often to developing countries, which have weak, and, in some cases, no environmental restrictions, LCV-supported legislation would undermine environmental progress.



    Clean Water
    In January of 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers violated its jurisdiction by extending Clean Water Act protection to isolated ponds and wetlands on the grounds that they provided habitat for migratory birds. While the Supreme Court limited the actual jurisdiction of the 404 program, the LCV blamed the Administration for rolling back wetland protection.

    But this criticism is unfounded, because it implicitly relies on the assumption that the Clean Water Act’s Section 404 program is effective in protecting wetlands. The data doesn’t suggest that it is. Most wetland conversions appear to occur outside of the regulatory framework of the 404 program, which means that even before the Supreme Court limited the programs reach, the program was already ignorant of the majority of activities destroying wetlands.

    In order to maximize the protection that the limited resources and jurisdiction that the 404 program can provide, the Corps is trying to prioritize which wetlands are most important to the federal government and focus its regulatory attention on those areas. Allowing the Army Corps of Engineers to continue to rely on its current equivocal regulations will only result in equivocal wetland protections, something the LCV just can’t figure out.



    Healthy Forests
    The House of Representatives recently passed President Bush’s Healthy Forests Initiative by a large bipartisan majority-256 to 170, to be exact. Seventeen Democrats cosponsored the legislation.

    By restoring common sense to forest management, the Healthy Forests Initiative protects a treasured national resource and as well as natural wildlife. On May 31, 2003, the Oregonian editorialized: “These changes make eminent sense when you consider what delay does to our ability to treat unhealthy forests-diseased or insect-ridden forests that account for huge fuel buildups that stoke catastrophic fires-and how damaging these wasteful infernos are to forests and streams, critters and humans.

    As the Denver Post wrote, “This plan is a balanced and bipartisan approach to cutting through some of the excess federal red tape that has stopped virtually all management.”

    The LCV, like other environmental groups, supports the status quo, in which more than 5.9 million acres of public and private land have burned over the last 2 years, an area the size of New Hampshire and more than twice the average annual acreage. In fact, as a General Accounting Office found, many thinning projects, which help reduce forest fires, were delayed by environmental group appeals in 2001 and 2002.



    The Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act passed unanimously in 2001, but the LCV chose to ignore it. The act was one of the most significant and successful bipartisan environmental accomplishments in a generation.

    Even the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, among many others, publicly supported the legislation. “It will go a long way,” NRDC said, “toward transforming contaminated sites into properties that enhance the quality of life — both environmentally and economically — of America’s urban communities.”

    In its current scorecard, the LCV criticizes President Bush for failing to “clean up some of the nation’s most toxic waste sites.” This is true, according to LCV, because President Bush refused to reinstate the Superfund tax. This is patently false, as it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what the tax does.

    First, the Superfund tax is not a targeted tax on polluters; it is an indiscriminate tax on business.

    As EPA Administrator Christie Whitman explained during a Feb. 26 EPW hearing, “It is certainly a broad-based tax that captures EVERYONE… whether they had been responsible for specific pollution or not.” Administrator Whitman also added: “I couldn’t think of any instance where a viable, responsible party has not been held liable… We are absolutely committed to the polluter-pays principle.”

    As LCV fails to understand, there has NEVER been a correlation between the amount of money raised by the tax and the dollars spent on clean up. For example, in 1996, the tax fund was at its highest level, yet the amount spent by the Clinton Administration for Superfund clean up was near a 10 year low

    Under President Bush’s FY ‘04 budget, the money for clean up is near a 10 year high (a $150 million increase), while the fund is at a low point. Simply put, there is NO funding issue.



    Non-Road Diesel
    The LCV and most of its allies couldn’t bring themselves to publicly support the most significant air quality proposals since passage of the Clean Air Act. A few groups reluctantly endorsed it, but when they did, they praised EPA rather than President Bush.

    The new diesel regulation will dramatically reduce emissions from nonroad diesel engines used in construction, agricultural and industrial equipment. This comprehensive national program requires stringent nonroad engine controls and reductions of sulfur in diesel fuel-a program that will achieve enormous air quality improvements throughout the country.

    The action showed a strong commitment from President Bush to take the next step to achieve cleaner air and protect the health of all Americans, especially the health of children and elderly who are more susceptible to diesel pollution.”

    EPA has estimated that by 2030 the nonroad program will, among other benefits, annually prevent over: 9,600 premature deaths, 8,300 hospitalizations, 16,000 heart attacks, 5,700 children’s asthma-related emergency room visits, 260,000 respiratory problems in children and nearly a million work days lost due to illness. Also, the nonroad program would significantly help areas across the country reach their clean air goals and improve public health nationwide.

    In its report card, the LCV acknowledges the substantial public health benefits of the new rule, but offered no direct praise for the President. Instead, it points out that the Administration made several “concessions” to the petroleum industry. LCV, again, prefers politicking to fairness.



    Bush FY 2004 Environmental Budget
    President Bush’s proposed FY 2004 request for the natural resources and environment budget is $30.4 billion, an increase of $1 billion, or 4 percent higher than requested in FY 2003. As the President said in his State of the Union address, government spending should not grow faster than the budget of the American family, which means 4% in FY 2004. The environment, conservation and natural resources agencies have met that standard without sacrificing environmental results.

    Using a broader definition of environmental spending that includes environmental related transportation and defense programs, funding increases by $.3 billion or 1 percent. The budgeted level of $44.9 billion is the highest amount of environmental spending ever requested.

    Not surprisingly, the LCV didn’t even mention the Bush budget in its report card.



    Climate Change
    President Bush rejected the Kyoto Treaty, arguing rightly that it would cause significant harm to the American economy with little or no environmental benefit. As many eminent scientists have shown, Kyoto would do nothing to solve the so-called problem of global warming.

    Just ask Dr. James Hansen of NASA, considered the father of global warming theory, who said that Kyoto Protocol “will have little effect” on global temperature in the 21st century. In a rather stunning follow-up, Hansen said it would take 30 Kyotos to reduce warming to an acceptable level. If one Kyoto devastates the American economy, what would 30 do? What are the environmental implications of a depressed economy?

    The LCV and other environmental groups have bitterly criticized President Bush for rejecting Kyoto, even though 95 senators voted in favor of the Byrd-Hagel resolution, which stated that Kyoto was unacceptable for ratification.

    President Bush also has rejected attempts to implement Kyoto through domestic caps on carbon dioxide emissions. Because climate change and air quality are two separate issues (CO2 is not a pollutant), the President proposed the Clear Skies initiative to reduce harmful emissions and a voluntary climate change initiative, providing incentives for businesses to reduce their greenhouse gases. He also established a goal to reduce greenhouse gas intensity 18 percent by 2018.

    The LCV opposes the President’s common sense approaches, and instead favors Democratic legislation that would do nothing to address climate change, but would impose immense economic burdens on the poor and elderly.



    Bush Hydrogen Research Initiative
    In his State of the Union address, President Bush announced a $1.2 billion hydrogen fuel initiative to reverse America’s growing dependence on foreign oil. The initiative is focused on developing technology for commercially viable hydrogen-powered fuel cells to power cars, trucks, homes and businesses with no pollution or greenhouse gases.

    The hydrogen fuel initiative will include $720 million in new funding over the next five years to develop the technologies and infrastructure to produce, store, and distribute hydrogen for use in fuel cell vehicles and electricity generation.

    Combined with the FreedomCAR initiative, President Bush is proposing a total of $1.7 billion over the next five years to develop hydrogen-powered fuel cells, hydrogen infrastructure and advanced automotive technologies.

    LCV, while taking issue with President Bush’s international funding for abortion, simply ignores the President’s Hydrogen Initiative.