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Environmental scorecard puts politics over progress

Alaskan oil pipeline in the north slope region of alaska
an image of the trans-alaskan oil pipeline that carries oil from the northern part of Alaska all the way to valdez. this shot is right near the arctic national wildlife refuge kyletperry/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Environmental scorecard puts politics over progress

June 28, 07:00 AM June 28, 07:00 AM

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Since 1970, the League of Conservation Voters, a legacy environmental advocacy group, has used its “National Environmental Scorecard” to track and rate lawmakers’ environmental votes. LCV proudly proclaims the scorecard is the “gold standard” for evaluating the environmental records of members of Congress.

Fifty years later, however, the group’s scorecard has been weaponized, shifting from rating relevant environmental votes to criticizing lawmakers’ stances on a host of unrelated political issues, including police reform and the certification of electoral votes for the 2020 presidential election. Still, despite taking overtly political positions, LCV claims to be a nonpartisan organization and champions its ability to “drive action on environmental policy in Washington, D.C.”

Alongside its penchant for straying outside of the environmental lane, the League of Conservation Voters has run into notable turbulence regarding election law and celebrating the arrest of its own activists while opposing the Keystone XL pipeline. LCV even opposed Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 2018.

What’s more is that the league has weighted its scorecard to reflect a number of votes that have nothing to do with the environment. The scorecard then scores the progressive position as pro-environment to reflect better on LCV’s Democratic allies. LCV rated members of Congress on several groundbreaking environmental policies: the Voting Rights Act, granting Washington, D.C., statehood, and protecting the U.S. Postal Service. Voting “no” on Republican Sen. Tim Scott’s police reform bill, the JUSTICE Act, was considered the “pro-environment” position.

The ever-expanding scorecard serves as just one example of how the advocacy group has used climate change to advance a progressive agenda across the board, rather than provide solutions that promote future prosperity and reduce climate change-inducing emissions.

For instance, the organization is openly anti-nuclear energy, even signing on to a letter to the U.S. Senate in November 2020 stating nuclear energy “amplifies and expands the dangers of climate change.” Yet, nuclear energy provides the safest opportunity for abundant clean energy, currently accounting for 20% of electricity production in the United States.

The LCV and groups like it have been at the forefront of the movement that successfully politicized climate change. An environmental advocacy group should score legislators based on their work to address the root causes of climate change, not whether or not they voted to impeach a former president or voted for a partisan voting rights bill. By shunning any and all congressional Republicans, LCV is only hurting its ability to advance real solutions.

We need young people to advocate commonsense solutions, which often means being open to working with both sides of the political aisle. It’s time to move beyond the politicization and adopt a pragmatic tone to take on climate change successfully.

As long as we allow rhetoric to take precedence over action, real climate progress will stall. Young people are hungry for solutions; instead of inserting politics where they don’t belong, we should seize the opportunity to strengthen America’s clean energy industry, promote actionable natural climate solutions, and streamline the burdensome regulations that hold us back from decarbonization. These are avenues we should be able to build upon.

Danielle Butcher (@DaniSButcher) is the executive vice president of the American Conservation Coalition.

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