Congress has been a serious ally for Trump’s anti-environment agenda

The 2017 League of Conservation Voters scorecard is out, and it's not good for Republican lawmakers.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as he meets with Republican congressional leaders at the White House. (CREDIT: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as he meets with Republican congressional leaders at the White House. (CREDIT: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

The Trump administration’s first year was marked by a barrage of environmental rollbacks, from announcing the United States’ intention to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement to the repeal of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which would have set the nation’s first-ever emissions limits on carbon emissions from power plants.

But on Capitol Hill, the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda has found eager allies in Congressional Republicans. According to a new scorecard of environmental votes released today by the League of Conversation Voters, Congressional Republicans have done little to stand in the way of the administration’s anti-environmental policies.

The League of Conversation Voters’ annual scorecard tracks how each member of Congress votes on key environmental legislation. As this year’s report shows, a majority of both Senate Republicans and House Republicans received an annual score of zero percent, meaning they voted against every piece of environmental legislation or nomination tracked by the scorecard.

In the Senate, 46 Republicans received a score of zero, bringing the overall Republican Senate average to a historic low of just 1 percent. In the House, 124 representatives received a score of zero, bringing the overall Republican House average to just 5 percent. The overall average for both the House and the Senate in 2017 was 45 percent — a marked decline from 2009, when the scorecard tallied a record-high 60 percent for the House and 63 percent for the Senate.

“When you’ve got 46 Republican Senators with a score of 0 percent … you very clearly show a party that has been completely captured by the polluting industries,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said on a press call announcing the scorecard’s release. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen that happen in the administration as well, with political appointees. Clearly, the polluters are now in charge at EPA.”

The scorecard tracked 19 votes in the Senate, including key cabinet nominations for Secretary of State, former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Whitehouse noted that since coming to the agency, Pruitt has stacked the EPA with political appointees with deep ties to the fossil fuel industry, such as industry lobbyist and lawyer Bill Wehrum, who now leads the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.

But he also pointed to several political nominations that had been blocked as proof that Democrats in Congress have been successful in slowing the administration’s anti-environmental agenda. This includes the withdrawn nominations of both Kathleen Hartnett White, who would have lead the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and Michael Dourson, who would have lead the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Hartnett White had tried to argue that rising carbon emissions are beneficial for the planet, while Dourson had deep ties to the chemical industry that he would have been in charge of regulating.

Still, Whitehouse expressed doubt that the administration’s replacement nominees would be a marked improvement.

“There’s no reason to expect that their successors are going to be a whole lot better,” Whitehouse said. “It is, in many respects, tough times for the environment in Washington, but there really is a very strong green Democratic firewall.”

On the House side, the scorecard tracked 35 votes, including a number of Congressional Review Acts that ultimately overturned several environmental regulations, such as the Stream Protection Rule, which was aimed at protecting streams and rivers from waste associated with coal mining.

The scorecard also looked specifically at members of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, which is supposed to bring Democrats and Republicans together to work towards climate action. According to the scorecard, Climate Solutions Caucus Republicans averaged just 16 percent — higher than the House Republican average, but still well below the House Democrat average of 94 percent.

“This has been an administration and a Congress that has been, perhaps, the most destructive to our environment … from the cabinet itself and the appointments that have been made, to a complicit Congress moving legislation forward that continues to attack and destruct protections that have been put in place over decades,” Representative Salud Carbajal (D-CA) said on a press call. “We are in a very tragic state.”

By all accounts, the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda shows no signs of slowing down in 2018. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt recently announced plans to reorganize the agency and shutter a program that funds research into how chemicals impact human health, while Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recently reiterated plans to open a historic amount of the United States’ coast to offshore drilling.