Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images Europe

These Republican Climate Hawks Get Low Environmental Marks

  • Voting records scrutinized by League of Conservation Voters
  • Members have voted for Alaska oil drilling, pushed to Kill EPA

Some House Republicans have bucked their party on climate change -- not only acknowledging it’s real, but vowing to fight the problem as well. But one environmental group says they still have poor voting records.

Republican members of the bipartisan "Climate Solutions Caucus" scored an average of just 16 percent on scorecard released Tuesday by League of Conservation Voters that tracks how lawmakers voted on major environmental issues last year.

The group, which now counts 35 Republicans in its ranks along with an equal number of Democrats, was formed to great fanfare in 2016 with hope it could break through congressional gridlock on climate legislation. But it’s drawn criticism as being a vehicle to help politically endangered Republicans burnish their green credentials without having to take hard votes.

"Republicans are using the caucus to provide cover to hide their extreme anti-environmental record," said Alex Taurel, the Washington-based environmental group’s deputy legislative director. "What we need is action, not just talk."

GOP members of the caucus have voted to open Alaska’s pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, kill Obama-era rules protecting streams from the effects of coal mining, rescind a federal rule requiring oil companies to disclose their payments to foreign governments, and rollback regulations on the emissions of methane -- a powerful greenhouse gas, according to the league’s analysis.

Others, such as New York Republican Claudia Tenney and Representative Scott Taylor of Virginia, have applauded Trump’s decision to leave the Paris climate agreement, while staying silent on his moves to rescind the Clean Power Plan. One of the more recent members to join the caucus, Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, introduced legislation last year that "terminates" the Environmental Protection Agency.

"The members of the caucus on the Republican side are what I call climate peacocks," said RL Miller, the chair of the California Democratic Party’s environmental caucus and co-founder of the Climate Hawks Vote super-political action committee, said in an interview. "They like to flash their tail feathers but not actually do anything."

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a grassroots group that played a role starting the Climate Solutions Caucus, says the league’s environmental scorecard doesn’t accurately reflect the caucus’s efforts.

"It’s a little premature to be saying these Republicans are not doing anything at all," said Steve Valk, a spokesman for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which has sought to put a fee on carbon emissions from fossil fuel.

Valk says the Republican members of the caucus have achieved small victories, such as voting to defeat an amendment on the House floor that would have killed language requiring the Department of Defense to study the effects of global warming on it’s military bases.

"Much is happening behind the scenes, thanks to the caucus, and we think patience will eventually be rewarded with major legislation to address climate change," Mark Reynolds, the Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s executive director.

Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican Representative, who co-founded the Climate Solutions Caucus and has a score of 23 percent, criticized the scorecard through a spokeswoman.

"It’s unfortunate that some environmental groups disingenuously and cynically put the interests of the Democratic Party above the cause of a clean planet," said Curbelo spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez. "To achieve their partisan objectives, they pollute the political environment with half-truths and misleading scorecards. They are most definitely a major part of the problem.”

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