Congresswoman takes hits in League of Conservation Voters scorecard
By E.J. Conzola II
The 2021 legislative session marked U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik’s lowest rating from the League of Conservation Voters since 2015, ending a trend of generally increasing scores.
The fall occurred after the league factored more votes outside strictly environment-related issues.
The congresswoman’s 2021 score of 13 out of 100 was the lowest she received from the league since getting a 9 in 2015—her first year in office. The 13 was the second lowest among New York’s 27 members of the House of Representatives, higher only than the 10 for Claudia Tenney of New Hartford and tied with freshman lawmaker Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island, also Republicans.
“It is incredibly disappointing to see Rep. Stefanik has joined the extreme anti-environment House Republican leadership to turn her back on protecting Upstate New York communities from the devastating impacts of the climate crisis and to allow special interests to continue to pollute our air, water, and public lands.”
— Craig Auster, vice president of political affairs, League of Conservation Voters
Stefanik, whose district includes the Adirondacks, still has a lifetime average score of 35, down three points from her average of 38 in 2020—the highest of her then seven years in the House.
The number represented votes the league described as “the most important issues of the year, including energy, climate change, public health, environmental and racial justice, worker protection, democracy, public lands and wildlife conservation, and spending for environmental programs.”
The league drew from “a consensus of experts from more than 20 respected environmental, environmental justice, and conservation organizations who selected the key votes on which members of Congress should be scored.”
The nature of those bills has changed over time, with fewer directly addressing issues such as climate change, pollution and environmental stewardship and more dealing with social justice such as voting rights, workers’ rights, immigration, the 2020 presidential election and the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol. Of the 22 bills, 11 targeted environmental concerns, far fewer both numerically and proportionally than in the past six analyses.
The league said the scoring system reflected that 2021 was “an unprecedented year for our democracy” and that the “health of our democracy and our environment are deeply intertwined.”
Stefanik spokesperson Palmer Brigham cited the increased emphasis on social justice issues as the reason for the congresswoman’s lower score.
“The biggest change of this scorecard is the so-called “environmental” priorities it selected do not environmentally impact the Adirondacks or the families in New York’s 21st District. In fact, at least half the bills chosen were labeled by [LCV] as social justice initiatives and center around political wars, rather than environmental policies,” Brigham said in an email.
The league “has made it clear that it would rather push a Far-Left, politicized agenda over considering serious pieces of legislation,” she said.
Brigham noted that Stefanik has recently won approval for measures to protect the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes from oil spills, secured annual funding for acid rain monitoring and mitigation and co-sponsored the Growing Climate Solutions Act to make it easier for farmers and private landowners to participate in carbon markets.
Stefanik cast what the league described as the “pro-environment vote” on two bills—one to fund a program to assist Native American tribes in managing bison on tribal lands, the other to certify Arizona’s slate of presidential electors.
Her “no” votes included the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act, which became incorporated into the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act approved by the Senate and signed into law on Nov. 15, and the Build Back Better Act.
The infrastructure bill contained funding for upgrading roads, bridges and railroad lines, as well as water and wastewater treatment facilities; the construction of wildlife crossings on public highways; fighting invasive species; protecting pollinators; expanding hydropower and broadband availability. The Build Back Better Act, which is still the subject of negotiations, included provisions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of air and water pollution as well as funding for clean energy technology, improved energy efficiency and “climate-smart” agriculture.
Stefanik voted against the Build Back Better Act because—although it contained provisions that would directly address some concerns that impact her district—it “includes a radical, Far-Left agenda beyond climate provisions,” Brigham said.
Stefanik has previously said she plans to introduce stand-alone legislation to address some of the environmental measures included in Build Back Better.
Stefanik also voted against bills to rein in methane emissions and to address PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) contamination as has been found in the water supply of Hoosick Falls.
The two candidates who are seeking the Democratic line to challenge Stefanik in November both said the league scorecard shows that the four-term congresswoman places politics over her constituents.
Matt Castelli, a Democratic challenger, said the “terrible environmental score is just another example of her record of putting herself and loyalty to her party ahead of the needs of our region.”
“Our local farms rely on clean water, healthy soil, and a predictable growing season and the Adirondack Park is a precious resource that drives our local economy, offers us recreation, and provides clean air and water for the entire state,” he said in an email. “Where we should be welcoming investments in our district and inviting in renewable energy projects, Stefanik rejects them.”
Editor’s note: This article first appears in the July/August 2022 issue of Adirondack Explorer magazine. It has been shortened for the web. We have also fixed an error about the Democratic primary race that was in the online version only.