Maryland Assembly's green grades slip

Despite passing offshore wind, lawmakers split with activists on other measures

  • Democratic lawmakers' scores slipped in the annual rating by Maryland League of Conservation voters.
Democratic lawmakers' scores slipped in the annual rating… (File photo )
July 15, 2013|Tim Wheeler

Legislators in Annapolis were less reliably green this year, as many saw their scores slip in the annual report card issued Monday by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

While lawmakers earned praise for approving bills promoting offshore wind and boosting transportation revenues, the league noted that "several of our priorities were weakened, rolled back, or killed." The group's report card echoes the mixed reviews many activists gave the General Assembly at the end of its 90-day session in April.

Karla Raettig, the Maryland league's executive director, praised as "visionary" legislators who voted to pass Gov. Martin O'Malley's offshore wind bill and to raise gas taxes.

But she lamented legislators' failure to act on other green bills while voting in at least one chamber to approve measures opposed by most environmentalists. Among the bills killed were a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, a fee on single-use shopping bags, a deposit on beverage containers and a phaseout of ratepayer subsidies for paper mills to burn a wood waste known as "black liquor."

Raettig said in a statement accompanying the report card that green-minded voters "should hold legislators accountable who didn’t vote to take several other opportunities to curb climate change.

"Why should just one bold clean energy bill pass in a session?" she asked. "We shouldn’t have an environmental quota.”

The Senate's green score slipped from 63 percent in 2012 to 55 percent this year. The House's overall score also dipped - though not as much - to 64 percent from 69 percent the year before.

One reason for the slippage was the Assembly's approval of an "agricultural certainty" bill, which gives Maryland farmers who qualify a 10-year reprieve from any new pollution regulations.  Though the Chesapeake Bay Foundation supported the law's passage, it was opposed by 23 other environmental groups.

Many senators scores took a hit because of the Senate's passage of a bill that would have delayed for two years imposition of storm-water management fees in Maryland's 10 largest counties and Baltimore city. The bill died in the House.  The fees have proven to be controversial.

As usual, Democrats earned the league's highest scores, though the average Dem's score declined by 11 points to 81 percent in the House and 70 percent in the Senate.  Republicans, who rarely vote with environmentalists, actually improved their scores some, to an average of 12 percent in the Senate and 26 percent in the House.

Twenty-nine House members earned 100 percent scores for voting the league's wishes every time, and nine in the Senate.  Six senators got zeros, and nine House members.

In addition to its usual report card, the league has developed an interactive map so voters can compare their legislators' performance with others around the state.  See that here.

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