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Wind turbine in neighboring Rhode Island (ctnewsjunkie photo)

HARTFORD, CT — The Connecticut League of Conservation Voters said lawmakers in both parties saw their environmental scores increase during the 2019 session.

The league has been tracking how lawmakers in the House and Senate vote on legislation for 19 years.

“The 2019 session was a major year for environmental policy in Connecticut, with the passage of the new plastic bag restrictions and greater investments into renewable energies,” Lori Brown, executive director of CTLCV, said. “We saw many freshman lawmakers making real change in environmental policy, and we want to thank all of our environmental champions for their work. However, there are still many lawmakers who rank very low, and we hope to see them do better next session.”

The scorecard also noted that 29 of 36 candidates who it supported in 2018 won their races.

Some of the lawmakers with low scores who were highlighted in the report , included Reps. John Piscopo, R-Thompson, Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, Mike France, R-Ledyard, Anne Dauphinaus, R-Danielson, and Sens. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, and Rob Sampson, R-Southington.

While there were issues with specific bills, Piscopo and Dubitsky struck a nerve with their comments during a four-hour debate on a bill that required climate change to be taught in public schools. That bill passed the House 103-43, but was never called for a vote in the Senate.

“I don’t know if global warming is caused by man,” Dubitsky said during that debate. “I don’t know if warming of the planet is going to be a major problem. But I can tell you from my research there are very credible people that say it’s not true.”

Dubitsky’s score was 44% for this year and 47% over his legislative career.

Piscopo said: “It can’t be determined how much global warming is caused by human’s burning of fossil fuels and what its time and course will be on the effect of climate in the future. It’s on the face of it, wrong.”

Piscopo, who has hiked the Appalachian Trail, had the lowest score of any lawmaker at 13%.

He said he’s comfortable with his environmental record.

“I stand by my environmental record,” Piscopo said. “I just have a whole different philosophy on the environment.” 

He said government does play a role in helping clean up the environment and he thinks tax credits to private industry are a better way to do it.

“You are better able to clean environment from a position of affluence,” Piscopo said.

The report also highlighted the work of 16 lawmakers in passing legislation they felt was favorable to the environment.

Sens. Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, Mary Abrams, D-Meriden, and Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, were four of the 16 lawmakers mentioned in the report. Along with Reps. Mike Demicco, D-Farmington, Gerry Reyes, D-Waterbury, Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, Christine Palm, D-Chester, Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, David Michel, D-Stamford, Bobby Gibson, D-Bloomfield, Anne Hughes, D-Easton, Devin Carney, R-East Lyme, and Raghib Allie-Brennan, D-Danbury.

Amanda Schoen, deputy director of CTLCV, said the scores are not based on party and there are plenty of Republicans who belong to clean energy caucuses, or there are coastal Republicans who have seen the impact of storms and rising sea levels.

Some of the legislation the group considers to legislative victories include the expansion of off-shore wind to 2,000 megawatts and the plastic bag ban. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is in the process of securing a vendor to establish off-shore wind in Connecticut, and plastic bags will be banned beginning on July 1, 2021.

Also, as part of the budget, the legislators committed to transition 50% of our state’s light-duty fleet and 30% of its public buses to electric, zero-emission vehicles by 2030.

The league also said that one of the most promising pieces of legislation —  the Green Economy Act, Connecticut’s version of the Green New Deal — was watered down significantly.

“We suffered another defeat in the failure to stop a second diversion of $54 million from the Energy Efficiency Fund,” the scorecard says. “Other key priorities like repealing the so-called Pipeline Tax never advanced past the Committee process, while a revamp of our state’s Environmental Justice law passed the House, but failed to advance in the Senate.”

Schoen said the environmental justice bill will be back again next year.

In 2008, Connecticut passed a landmark environmental justice law to prevent polluting power plants, incinerators, and similar facilities from being sited in low-income or minority-majority communities without meaningful public participation and input. The environmental justice bill that passed the House and was never called in the Senate “would have strengthened the existing law and given communities a greater voice in decisions that affect their environment.”

Other unfinished business includes expansion of the bottle bill.

Legislation that made it out of committee would have raised the nickel deposit to a dime and would have included juices, teas, and sports or energy drinks. The beverage industry, according to environmentalists, succeeded in killing the bill.

Other defeats “can be attributed to pressure from leadership to pass the budget before addressing other policy priorities,” the scorecard states.

The session ended on June 5.

The scorecard tracked votes on 22 pieces of legislation.