Environment NC has released its voting scorecard for the 2011 short session.
Thirty-three lawmakers - all House Democrats - received perfect scores for their voting records on 10 key bills identified by the group. That’s the highest number of perfect scores ever given. No Senate Democrats had perfect scores.
But the 2011 report also brought the highest number of low scores. Fifty-five House Republicans received a zero from the group, and most Senate Republicans scored zero, too.
Environment NC Legislative Director Elizabeth Ouzts says the polarized scores reflect the political divide in the legislature. She blamed a Republican initiative to roll back environmental protections.
House and Senate Republicans embarked on a major regulatory reform push last year. Arguing that the state DENR and its byzantine regulations were killing jobs, they passed a ban on new rule-making. They also essentially gutted DENR in the new budget, transferring many of its duties to the Republican-led Department of Agriculture. Some Democrats voted for those bills, too.
"The folks running the General Assembly are out of step with where most North Carolinians are when it comes to the environment," Ouzts said, calling the GOP's anti-regulatory agenda "extreme."
The survey Ouzts referenced was a June 2011 poll by Democrat-affiliated Public Policy Polling. In it, 83% of voters surveyed said protecting the state's air and water was important to economic development, and 84% of voters said the state should maintain or increase its protections for drinking water.
Wake Democrat Deborah Ross, one of the House members who earned a 100% score, was even more blunt, accusing Republican leaders of "flat-out ignorance" regarding the long-term effects of cuts to protections for soil, air, and water.
Ouzts said 2011 had a few bright spots, including the failure of the House to override Gov. Perdue's veto of S709, a bill that would open the door to offshore drilling and onshore fracking in North Carolina. She credited that to constituents who contacted lawmakers about their concerns about the bill. But she said the fight over fracking is far from over.
In the State of the Union address last night, President Barack Obama pledged that his administration would "take every possible action to safely develop" the nation's supply of natural gas.
"Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade," the president said. "And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk."
Ouzts and Guilford Democrat Pricey Harrison said that's a guarantee fracking operators can't make.
"We fully expect that we're going to see efforts to allow fracking in North Carolina in this short session," Ouzts said. "And we're not for that."