The Zero Candidate - a letter to newsmedia

Bill Cassidy - The Zero Candidate

The League of Conservation Voters has crafted an Environmental Scorecard for Congress for several decades now. The Scorecard grades voting records for Senators and Representatives in each Session of Congress, as well as lifetime score for each member.

It’s not surprising that Louisiana’s delegation has generally scored poorly, given the political influence of the petrochemical industry in our state. But the scores in the last few years have plummeted for Republican members of the state delegation, reflecting a highly conservative ideology combining hatred of government, disdain for science, and the power of campaign contributions with a lack of regard for America’s natural heritage.

If that judgment seems overly partisan, then consider the scores for 2013. Senator Vitter scored 15% out of 100, while Senator Landrieu scored 69%, even with her strong support of the oil and gas industry. Representative Richmond (D) scored 64%. Representatives Boustany, Fleming, and Scalise all scored 4% out of 100. Yet their single digit scores look almost reasonable in comparison to that of Congressman Bill Cassidy, who had the distinction of scoring 0 – that is, zero.

How should we read the LCV Scorecard? It’s fair to say that not all bills voted on are of equal importance, and we should always try to allow for some genuine difference of opinion on any single piece of legislation. But the scores point to some important things – their totals reflect not only priorities, but values. A score of zero is a strong indicator of both.

Some of Cassidy’s votes involve well-known areas of disagreement like the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, and rules for “fracking.” But others touch on areas that should also be of concern to Louisiana, such as voting against programs to improve the natural resiliency of areas hit by Hurricane Sandy. While those programs involve common-sense steps like restoration of forests, sand dunes, and wetlands, they also would enable the federal government to purchase property to further those goals, which was reason enough for Cassidy and many other conservatives to vote “no.”

Cassidy joined Representative John Fleming in an amendment scrapping $10 million in funding to restore the McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut, which was damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The Scorecard doesn’t include Cassidy’s vote against the entire Hurricane Sandy relief bill. The message these votes send, of course, is that Congressman Cassidy has not learned much from the vulnerability of his own district to hurricanes or the national relief funds Louisiana has received.

Congressman Cassidy’s votes are only one part of his record. Another important part (not covered by the LCV Scorecard) is his many public statements opposing environmental protection and rules and regulations controlling energy production and industrial activity. Here too, his record suggests that the Congressman has not paid much attention to a string of recent incidents affecting Louisiana, such as the chemical spill in the Pearl River, the Bayou Corne Sinkhole, or the BP Oil Disaster.

The substance of Cassidy’s public statements and votes may best be summarized by the LCV Scorecard’s description of the GOP’s “Stop the War on Coal Act of 2012”, which he supported. This bill (H.R. 3409) did the following:

Blocked the Secretary of the Interior from protecting streams from the effects of mountaintop removal;

Blocked fuel efficiency standards for cars;

Stopped Clean Air Act protections against smog, soot, and mercury pollution;

Blocked protections of communities from Coal Ash;

Undermined Clean Water Act protections against pollution.

Thankfully, the U.S. Senate never passed this legislation. That is something Dr. Cassidy no doubt hopes to rectify should he be elected to the Senate.

 

Haywood Martin, Chair

Sierra Club Delta Chapter

 

 

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