While the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters graded individual lawmakers on their environmental voting records in an annual scorecard released Wednesday, the group’s executive director gave the overall legislature a disappointing “C-” based on its failure to act on climate policies.
In its 23rd annual scorecard, the group assigned numerical grades to each state legislator based on their support or opposition to a variety of environmental initiatives considered in Hartford this year. The scorecard tracked each vote related to bills on topics like energy, greenhouse gas emissions, and pesticides.
Scores ranged from a 100% awarded to Rep. Joshua Hall, D-Hartford, to a 40% assigned to Rep. Cara Pavalock-D’Amato, R-Bristol. Click here to see a full breakdown of the scores awarded to each lawmaker.
Lori Brown, the league’s executive director, said that because many environmental proposals failed to advance beyond their committees of cognizance, individual lawmaker scores varied considerably based on which committees legislators were or were not assigned to.
“So many of the bills this year did not get a vote after they passed out of committee, I mean so many big, important bills did not get voted on so we kind of lost some transparency there,” Brown said.
In an interview Wednesday, Brown ticked off several lawmakers who her group considered environmental champions based on their efforts in 2023: Rep. Christine Palm (95%), D-Chester, Sen. Christine Cohen (93%), D-Guilford, Rep. Aundre Bumgardner (98%), D-Groton, and Rep. David Michel (98%), D-Stamford, and others.
“There were a few tremendous champions who did a lot of work, but too few [lawmakers] engaged,” Brown said. “That seems to be the way things are going with victories. It’s all on the back of one or two legislators who actually make that their priority.”
Although she said many environmental policies became the subject of partisan votes this year, Brown highlighted Rep. Devin Carney, an Old Lyme Republican who scored a 95% on the annual assessment.
“He’s always been someone we felt we could count on, but he’s really made it a point this year on the Republican side,” Brown said of Carney.
Asked to grade the General Assembly as a whole, Brown settled on a “C-,” which she said was disappointing following a successful, “A+,” session in 2022 when the legislature passed the Connecticut Clean Air Act among other environmental policies.
In particular, Brown lamented the failure of proposals aimed at addressing climate change.
“It’s never one and done,” she said. “You have to keep fighting for this stuff.”
Among the top climate priorities that went unapproved this year was a Department of Energy and Environmental Protection-sponsored bill that would have allowed the agency to set emissions reduction regulations to meet state targets and levy civil penalties for violating the regulations.
Neither chamber of the legislature passed the bill, which came under fire by both legislative Republicans and the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association, a group representing fuel and oil distributors, who called it an overreach by the Executive Branch agency.
“This bill is nothing more than a move to usurp the state legislature’s authority and give power to a commissioner who is an appointed bureaucrat,” Chris Herb, president and CEO of the group, said back in March.
Another climate proposal that stalled before making it across the finish line would have declared a “climate crisis” and tasked DEEP with creating a “Decarbonization Roadmap” to help the state reach its emissions reduction targets. A version of the bill passed through the House but expired without action by the Senate.
An orange haze caused by smoke from distant wildfires hung in the sky on the day the bill died, Brown said.
“The skies were orange from all the fires in Canada. That’s the day they chose to kill the bill in the Senate,” she said.
Those fires and other recent weather events demonstrated the importance of climate action, which Brown said she hoped would receive more attention in next year’s short legislative session.
“The storms and the floods. We’ve had droughts. I mean that really hits the pocketbook,” Brown said. “People really have to realize the cost of doing nothing on climate change is real — very real and getting worse.”