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Report Card Scores Texas Candidates On Environmental Positions and Conduct

Oct. 24, 2002

Report Card Scores Texas Candidates On Environmental Positions and Conduct

AUSTIN – Three public interest organizations released an environmental report card today ranking candidates for four top offices on their stances on environmental issues.

“This report is a tool citizens can use to make an educated decision on whether a candidate will help to protect or endanger the environment,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “Citizens have expressed their concern with protecting our air and water. The questions is, ‘how concerned are our politicians?’ “

Public Citizen, Clean Water Action, and Sierra Club sent questionnaires to candidates for U.S. Senate, governor, lieutenant governor and land commissioner, seeking their positions and goals on a variety of environmental matters. The organizations used the information to grade candidates from A to F. The results reveal strong support from all candidates for renewable energy but varied levels of commitment on other environmental issues.

Because seven of the eight candidates reviewed have held or currently hold elective office, the organizations also ranked candidates based on their past performance in office. In this category, candidates received a rating of E (excellent), S (satisfactory), or U (unsatisfactory).

“The records of candidates who have held office, give a good indication of how they would approach environmental issues in the offices they are seeking,” said Ken Kramer, director of the Texas Sierra Club. “There are clear differences between candidates in particular races based on previous track records.”

Texas’ leaders are faced with growing concern over whether to allow drilling on public lands. Similarly, candidates for the U.S. Senate will likely have to deal with critical energy issues and the question of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

And Texans care about clearing their air. Nearly 73 percent of Texans indicated that they would be more likely to vote for a candidate with a strong air quality platform, according to a poll released in August by Public Citizen’s Texas office and the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition.

“This report card demonstrates that some of our Texas candidates studied well in big business and need to study harder in natural science,” said Dwayne “Sparky” Anderson, program director for Clean Water Action. “We need leaders who are prepared to protect the environment this next session. This report card makes it clear who has a passing grade and who will fail.”

The report card results include:

· Gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez and David Dewhurst, candidate for lieutenant governor, both got “A’s” for their promise to push for 10 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable resources by 2020.

· Gov. Rick Perry and John Sharp, candidate for lieutenant governor, received “Bs” on renewable energy. Sharp stated that he would work to increase our renewable energy use from 3 to 5 percent, while Perry wants to make Texas the nation’s leading marketer of renewable energy.

· On air quality, Perry got a “C” for merely saying he would fund the existing clean air plan. Sanchez, Dewhurst, and Bernsen earned “A’s” for having clear goals. Sharp on the other hand, earned a “B”.

· There is strong support among the candidates for increasing the use of renewable energy. Sanchez, Dewhurst and Bernsen all have a goal of 10 percent or more of energy coming from renewables, while Perry, Sharp, land commissioner candidate Jerry Patterson and Kirk all favor increasing the use of these zero polluting sources of energy.

· U.S. Senate candidate Ron Kirk received a “D” for his position on nuclear waste, while opponent John Cornyn got a “D” on his position on global warming. Cornyn received an “F” for expressing support for President Bush’s “Clean Skies” proposal, which would significantly increase pollution over Texas cities.

· Perry received an unsatisfactory rating for his past performance because he killed the inventory of global warming gasses and failed to have a plan to pay for cleaning up the air. Also, as agriculture commissioner, he sought federal approval of the use of a dangerous toxic substance for predator control, and he championed efforts to weaken environmental regulations on the pretext of protecting private property rights. Sanchez’s past record is not as clear. During his term as a member of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission, he spearheaded the effort to create a new state park in South Texas, but questions have been raised about whether he used his time on the commission to win approval of an oil drilling operation in another state park after he left the commission.

· Most candidates think we ought to take action to combat global warming but vary in their responses on how to deal with it.

· Sharp received an “E” in part for his role as a state senator in the 1980s pushing for protections for freshwater inflows to bays and estuaries while land commissioner candidate David Bernsen received an “E” for his strong leadership to end the grandfather loophole for dirty old industrial air polluters.

· Dewhurst received an unsatisfactory rating for his overall indifference to the environment while serving as land commissioner and his failure to reach out to environmentalists, although he deserves credit for his support of “greenbuilding” efforts in his role on the Veterans Land Board.

To view the report card, click here. Report cards on Attorney General candidates will be released on Oct. 31.