Two weeks after former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was confirmed as the U.S. Attorney General, Sessions’ score of 0% on the League of Conservation Voters’ (LCV) 2016 National Environmental Scorecard offers insight into what his priorities may be in his new role.
Sen. Richard Shelby and former Sen. Jeff Sessions each earned a score of 0% by voting against clean water, energy efficiency, and public lands. Both senators voted to void the Clean Water Rule that protects the drinking water consumed by one in three Americans. Sessions also voted for a bill that would have gutted the Antiquities Act, a key piece of legislation that is used to preserve public lands from the Statue of Liberty to the Grand Canyon.
“Time and again we’ve seen that conservation can and should be a bipartisan issue,” said Tammy Herrington, Executive Director of Conservation Alabama. “We hope that Attorney General Sessions is mindful of that, and that he remembers his former constituents in Alabama were protected by laws like the Clean Water Act in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.”
LCV’s 2016 National Environmental Scorecard publishes the environmental voting record for each member during the second session of the 114th Congress. This year, a record-breaking 38 House votes are included in the scorecard. The Alabama congressional delegation’s scores are being released by Conservation Alabama in partnership with LCV. The full scorecard is available in English and Spanish here.
Once again, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) maintained her position as the highest scoring member of Alabama’s delegation by voting to protect the laws that safeguard our drinking water and public lands. The remainder of the state’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives scored no higher than 3%.
House District: Member – Score
AL-1: Byrne – 0
AL-2: Roby – 3
AL-3: Rogers – 3
AL-4: Aderholt – 3
AL-5: Brooks – 3
AL-6: Palmer – 0
AL-7: Sewell – 82
Senator – Score
Sessions – 0
Shelby – 0
The state legislature met on Tuesday and Thursday of this week, spending Wednesday in committee meetings. On Tuesday, more than three hours of the House’s legislative time was spent debating a resolution to encourage the U.S. Congress to support the president’s “government reform agenda.” There was also debate on both the prison reform plan and the state’s policy of judicial override; the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would end a judge’s ability to override a jury’s verdict.
Of the bills Conservation Alabama is currently tracking this session, HB 7 passed out of its committee, bringing us a step closer to allowing Alabamians to donate part of their income tax return to our state parks. This new avenue for contributions gives us another way to support our parks, and thanks to the passage of Amendment 2 on Election Day 2016 we can be sure that any money we donate will stay within the state parks system.
SB 113 passed the Senate and will now be sent to the House Ways & Means Committee. This bill streamlines the process that wastewater treatment facilities have to follow in order to be licensed by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). Currently, facilities have to have a bond in case ADEM needs to take over the facility and/or close it. Facilities also have to pay a fee into an account that is for the same purpose. This bill removes the fee element and redefines the bond requirement to make sure that the state can afford to safely close a facility if necessary.
Federally, confirmation hearings are continuing for the president’s cabinet-level positions. This includes the hearing for Scott Pruitt, the president’s nominee for head of the EPA. As Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) noted in her announcement that she would oppose this confirmation, during Pruitt’s time as attorney general of Oklahoma he filed lawsuits against the EPA in an attempt to restrict the agency’s ability to protect our natural resources and public health. To voice your opinion on Pruitt’s nomination, click here. The full Senate vote on Pruitt’s confirmation is expected to be held this afternoon.
The Forever Wild Land Trust held its first quarterly board meeting of the new year on Thursday. Conservation Alabama was on hand to present the results of a return on investment study recently completed by the Trust for Public Land that quantified the economic impact that Forever Wild brings to the state. The study found that for every $1 spent on conserving land in Alabama, Forever Wild contributes $5 in natural goods and services to our economy.
While we all know how vital public lands are to the state, this dollar figure helps policymakers see the true value of investing in conservation. Beyond services like wildlife habitat and flood control, the public lands preserved by Forever Wild also serve as the foundation for our state’s recreation industry, which generates more than $2 billion in spending each year. Forever Wild also improves the quality of life in communities by attracting businesses and new residents and providing public place for outdoor exercise.
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Gunter Guy noted that the study’s results confirmed the state’s message that investments in conservation pay off. Alabama relies on its natural resources for tourism and recreation in addition to industries like forestry and commercial fishing, and without public lands our state’s economy would suffer along with our communities and our environment.
The full return on investment study can be read here. Along with our partners at The Nature Conservancy in Alabama we will be sharing the study with the state legislature so that our elected officials have the best possible information when making decisions about Forever Wild during the 2017 session, which began on Tuesday, and beyond.