Conservation scorecard: Wilton lawmakers get mixed marks
The Connecticut League of Conservation Voters recently released its annual Environmental Scorecard for members of the state legislature. Wilton’s lawmakers received marks for votes cast in the 2013 legislative session, which ended June 5.
Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) was one of 11 legislators who received “special accolades for their efforts on especially difficult issues during the past legislative session” and was named a 2013 CTLCV Legislative Champion. Ms. Lavielle was similarly honored after the 2012 legislative season. She received a score of 100% for 2013, and has a lifetime score of 88% since she was first elected in 2010.
The Connecticut League of Conservation Voters is a bipartisan, nonprofit legislative watchdog organization that works with environmental advocacy groups to promote bills that affect air, water, wildlife, open space, and health.
The conservation league’s scorecard measures how individual legislators voted on 20 of what the league deems “the most critical conservation bills this year.”
These included ones on pesticides, toxins, labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), water conservation, renewable energy, fracking, the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), coastal management, outdoor wood furnaces, dam safety, farmland, tree management, and mattress recycling.
Lori Brown, president of the league, said, “We were thrilled to see increased funding for our clean water programs and open space protection. But we had tough losses on the bills that really would have made a difference when it comes to clean energy and toxins
The League of Conservation Voters works with environmental groups during the year to identify legislative priorities. The league then grades legislators on a scale of 0% to 100%, based on their votes on certain environmental bills in committees, the House, and the Senate.
The final score is the average of the selected votes. This year, the league did not score absences or abstentions — instead it left blank any votes not recorded for a legislator on a particular bill.
The league commended Ms. Lavielle for her leadership in transportation. A member of the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation, she introduced 17 bills that focused primarily on two areas: protecting the revenues in the state’s Special Transportation Fund from being used for purposes other than transportation, and focusing state resources and priorities on improving mass transit and commuter rail in Fairfield County. Legislation was passed protecting the Special Transportation Fund that will take effect on July 1, 2015.
“Because vehicle emissions have such a significant impact on air quality, providing convenient, reliable, and efficient alternatives to driving is one of the most effective things we can do to protect our environment,” Ms. Lavielle said. “I spend considerable time on transportation issues in the legislature, because I believe that improving our transportation infrastructure addresses air quality, traffic congestion, and quality of life, and it’s essential for Connecticut’s economic survival.”
Wilton’s state senator, Toni Boucher (R-26), received a score of 93% from the conservation league, down slightly from her perfect 100% score for the 2012 legislative session year.
Ms. Boucher’s lifetime score is 76%, based on scores from 2000 to the current year.
“Protecting our state’s environment, natural resources, and open space is key to preserving Connecticut’s quality of life,” Ms. Boucher said. “Promoting and improving mass transit also benefits our economy and public health,” added the senator, who is the ranking member of the general assembly’s Transportation Committee.
Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-125), who represents a portion of Wilton and New Canaan, received a score of 63% for his freshman year. He voted against several bills important to the league, including a bill that would prohibit the storage of fracking waste, a measure regulating mattress disposal, and the CT Environmental Protection Act.
Mr. O’Dea told The Bulletin last week he is disappointed with his score.
“I drive a hybrid car,” he said. “I tried to get solar panels. I consider myself pro-environment. I am into renewable energy.”
On both the fracking and mattress issues, Mr. O’Dea said he was concerned with their effect on the business community.
On the storage of fracking waste, Mr. O’Dea said, the business community “thought it was a great opportunity for business and wouldn’t hurt the environment. … As I recall, the business community was telling us virtually 90-plus percent was renewable and reusable. A small percentage would be toxic and would be shipped out of state.” He added that since New York had outlawed the practice it was an opportunity for the northeastern part of the state to have a processing center.
As for the mattress issue, Mr. O’Dea was unwilling to have the state impose a $20 tax on consumers for the disposal of old mattresses.
“Mattresses being left out in Wilton and New Canaan is not a problem,” he said. But “if you run a hotel, that adds up to real money. … I felt there were ways those mattresses could be dealt with without a tax.”
Mr. O’Dea added he was in favor of GMO labeling and voted to make UConn disclose to neighbors “what chemicals they were putting in the ground.”
More information on the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters and its 2013 Scorecard, as well as scorecards back to 2000, may be found at ctlcv.org.