Enviro group’s report card on lawmakers: too many failing grades

TRENTON – An environmental group issued a legislative scorecard Thursday covering the first three years of the Christie administration and gave a majority of the state’s 120 legislators failing marks.

The N.J. Environmental Federation’s 2010-2013 score card said that at a time when New Jersey is facing critical issues such as whether to ban hydraulic fracturing waste, funding open space preservation, and protecting the coast after Superstorm Sandy – individual legislators took what the Federation considered the pro-environment stance 48 percent of the time.

Among those graded as environmental “heroes’’ were Democrats Assemblyman John McKeon, who received the highest score of 102; Sen. Bob Smith at 101; and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora at 101.

Among other Democrats receiving grades in the 90s were gubernatorial candidate Sen. Barbara Buono, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Majority Leader Sen. Loretta Weinberg, and retiring Assemblywoman Connie Wagner.

The Republican receiving the highest grade was Sen. Christopher Bateman, at 82, who has differed with his party on key issues such as banning “fracking’’ and leaving the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

The Democrat receiving the lowest score, a zero, was Sen. Paul Sarlo. The study also said that eight of 15 Democrats in leadership posts ranked in the bottom five of their caucuses, Pringle said.

Also grading at zero were Republican Sen. Steve Oroho and Assemblyman Parker Space who just took office this year.

N.J. Environmental Federation Campaign Director Dave Pringle said that the environmental lawmakers and advocates do not always agree on every issue, and to illustrate that, pointed out that even though Oroho received a zero in their study, he received credit for playing an important role in the safe playing fields bill.

Even though Senate President Steve Sweeney received a grade of 33, Pringle lauded him for being a champion in the fight for promoting wind energy.

The Federation studied 18 bills altogether.

As a whole, the D’s voted pro-environment 59 percent of the time, the R’s 32 percent of the time.

Even when the so-called pro-environment position won the day on a bill, its scope often was reduced, Pringle said.

“We’re moving in the wrong direction,’’ Pringle said.

Smith, chair of the Senate Environment Committee, said that even though the environmental groups and legislators don’t always agree, he used the release of the report card to express his hope that the “holy grail’’ of environmental concerns right now – a referendum on using sales tax money to fund preservation efforts – will make it to the ballot this November.

And Bateman said that such concerns shouldn’t be partisan issues. He felt that the most successful environmental initiatives have been bipartisan.

But he said that he has occasionally seen opposition from GOP colleagues over his environmental votes. “The national Republicans are wrong on the environment,’’ he said, adding the party is not as environmentally conscious as it should be. 

On state issues, he said he opposed the governor’s decision to pull New Jersey out of RGGI, he is opposed to “fracking,’’ and he is concerned about global warming.

Enviro group’s report card on lawmakers: too many failing grades