Sept. 5, 2014 04:47 PM

The message his votes send, of course, is that Congressman Cassidy has not learned much from his own state's brushes with natural disaster.

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. Sen. David Vitter scored 15 percent out of 100, while Sen. Mary Landrieu scored 69 percent, even with her strong support of the oil and gas industry. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-New Orleans) scored 64 percent. Reps. Charles Boustany (R-Lafayette), John Fleming (R-Minden) and Steve Scalise (R-Metairie) all scored 4 percent out of 100. Yet their single digit scores look almost reasonable in comparison to that of Congressman Bill Cassidy (R-Baton Rouge), 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 Fleming in an amendment scrapping $10 million in funding to restore the McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut, which was damaged by 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, Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club


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