Ken Plum: Environmental scores and attitudes

Among the groups keeping “score” on the actions of the General Assembly is the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. From among the thousands of votes cast by members of the House of Delegates and the State Senate the League chooses those votes of most importance to the environmental and conservation groups that make up their organization. For many issues the League takes an opposing view that the consequences of legislation might be harmful to the environment. Other bills enjoy the support of League members if they might result in keeping the air and water of the Commonwealth clean or leading to it being cleaned up. All these votes are tallied into a scorecard that is issued annually. The most recent 2011 scorecard can be found at www.valcv.org.

I am pleased to have scored a perfect 100 percent on the League of Conservation Voters Scorecard for 2011 making me one of their champions as I have been for at least the past half-dozen years. I am pleased that my score correctly reflects my feelings that in Virginia we need to do a better job of protecting the environment. Although my score reflects the League’s priorities, they do not necessarily reflect the outcome of bills. In fact, in the House the average score of legislators was 61 percent and in the Senate 74 percent.

Just as there is a clear split in the legislature on environmental issues there is a division in public opinion on these issues. In its 2011 Virginia Environmental Attitudes Survey, the Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University found that slightly less than half (48.4%) of Virginians think that climate change is a real problem while 29.8 percent do not consider it a real problem. Virginians surveyed rate the state’s natural environment an average grade of 2.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 or about a C-minus grade. Slightly over half (51.8%) consider that the state’s environment will be about the same in ten years; 27.3% think it will get worse.

Six of ten Virginians consider environmental protection as generally good for the economy while only two in ten view it as generally bad for the economy. Nearly eight in ten Virginians are willing to pay more to support companies with environmentally conscious policies and practices. Slightly over half of those surveyed indicated that they would pay more for these companies’ products. The survey reported that Virginians “when pressed they favor environmental protection over economic growth and development.”

When my voting record on environmental issues is compared with public opinion, I believe my votes correctly reflect my constituents’ interests that the environment be protected as our economy grows. They also reflect the fact that we can protect our environment and have a healthy economy.

Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.



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