Lawmakers’ environmental scorecard drops

According to the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, the state’s legislators are slipping as environmental watchdogs. But curiously absent among the 12 votes the CTLCV used to make that assessment – the huge energy bill that created the new Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and set in motion dozens of programs designed to revamp the energy usage profile of the state and ultimately the state’s carbon footprint.

That, said Lori Brown, executive director of CTLCV, was because the bill wasn’t finalized until the very end of the session. “We were not able to post alerts to legislators about the pro-environment position,” she said. “It was the session that never ended.”

The annual Environmental Scorecard noted that the number of legislators with perfect score remained the same – 38. But the number of those with failing scores – scores below 60 percent – grew to 34 percent, more than 2008, 2009 and 2010 combined.

Bringing up the rear: Reps. Richard Smith (R, New Fairfield) and Lile Gibbons (R, Old Greenwich). Four representatives scored 38 percent: Sean Williams (R, Watertown), Ezequiel Santiago (D, Bridgeport), Anthony D’Amelio (R, Waterbury), and Fred Camillo (R, Old Greenwich). The lowest scoring senator was L. Scott Frantz, a Republican from Riverside, with 40 percent.

Overall, Democrats overall scored best, as did members of the Senate and women legislators. The votes that figured into the score included the controversial Haddam land swap which the CTLCV opposed and was passed; streamflow regulation changes which it also opposed and failed; community green fund legislation, which it supported, but failed; an expedited permitting bill, which it opposed, and failed; and using natural buffers for water habitat protection, which it supported and also failed.

“The end of session got ugly,” Brown said referring to Haddam. “It was the worst I’ve seen ever of how it shouldn’t work. You know that sausage thing; you really get to see what happens.”

CTLCV, which is a bipartisan group, also singled out the chairs of the Commerce Committee – Sen. Gary LeBeau (D, East Hartford) and Rep. Jeffrey Berger (D, Waterbury), both with scores of 50 percent – as being particularly unfriendly to the environment.

On the bright side the scorecard said, the Council on Environmental Quality ultimately was saved and funding was preserved for a number of open space, farmland preservation and clean water projects.

“Most of the bad stuff ended up essentially dying at the end of the day,” Brown said, though she admitted some of it ended up getting further along in the process than she would have liked. “Even though a lot of legislators for took hits for not voting the right sway, we didn’t lose ground.”