TOWSON, Md. – Two Maryland congressmen got failing grades Wednesday from a public interest group rating this year’s votes on environmental issues.
The Maryland Public Interest Research Group gave Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., R-Baltimore County, a zero rating – the lowest in Maryland – for votes on six key issues examined.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group gave Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Frederick, a 17 percent for voting for only one of the six pro-environmental measures.
The other Maryland members received ratings of 67 percent or better, with the four Democrats receiving 100 percents.
“We’re disappointed that Representative Ehrlich has voted consistently with the polluters and against public health and the environment,” said Dan Pontious, executive director of MaryPIRG, singling out the freshman congressman.
A spokesman for Ehrlich dismissed the criticism. “MaryPIRG does not represent the environmental mainstream and you wouldn’t expect them to be supportive of the regulatory reform measures that the 104th Congress is considering,” said spokesman Richard J. Cross.
He said the Republican Contract with America makes environmental regulation more efficient. “It’s possible to be pro-environment and anti-regulatory at the same time,” he said.
Carl Pery, a field organizer for MaryPIRG, had harsh words for Bartlett.
“Bartlett claims to be an environmentalist, but he has never voted pro-environment,” Pery said.
Bartlett could not be reached for comment.
Among the measures highlighted in the report card were:
* a bill that would ban the federal government from issuing new environmental regulations from Nov. 20, 1994, to Dec. 31, 1995. MaryPIRG opposes it. The measure passed the House, with Ehrlich, Bartlett and Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest of the Eastern Shore in favor.
* a bill that would require government agencies to justify proposed environmental standards based on costs and benefits. MaryPIRG opposes it. It passed the House, with Ehrlich and Bartlett supporting it.
* a provision compelling the federal government, in some cases, to pay polluters for the costs of complying with environmental or health laws. MaryPIRG opposes it. It passed the House, with Ehrlich and Bartlett in favor.
“Congress is engaged in a massive effort to roll back years of environmental progress,” Pontious said. “But the vast majority of the American public continues to believe that we need to strengthen, not weaken, our environmental laws.”
Pontious applauded Maryland’s four Democratic congressmen – Reps. Kweisi Mfume and Benjamin Cardin of Baltimore and Reps. Albert Wynn and Steny Hoyer of Prince George’s County – for being “environmental champions” on the six votes.
He said Gilchrest and Rep. Constance Morella, R-Montgomery, also “deserve praise for standing up to pressure from the House leadership on many of these critical votes.” Gilchrest scored a 67 percent, while Morella scored an 83 percent.
Gilchrest said there has been no pressure on him “to change my votes for anybody.” He called his votes “pragmatic, practical and based on the right information.”
The report card was released one month before Earth Day’s 25th anniversary April 22 in an attempt to pressure the Senate to reject anti-environment bills passed by the House, Pontious said. He said his group wants to make members of Congress aware that 100 million Americans live in areas with dirty air. He said about half of the country’s lakes are unfit for fishing or swimming, and one quarter of the world’s species could be lost within the next 50 years. -30-