Environmental alibi

The Baltimore Sun

Voters in Maryland's 1st Congressional District have a habit of sending people to Congress with a fondness for the Chesapeake Bay, from former Interior Secretary Rogers C.B. Morton to Wayne T. Gilchrest. The latest Republican vying for that seat, Andy Harris, has an abysmal score on a leading environmental "report card," which he claims is unfair and political.

Specifically, the Baltimore County state senator says the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, the nonprofit group that each year rates environmental voting records in Annapolis, has included legislation allowing voters to cast their ballots ahead of Election Day.

Mr. Harris has a point. The league did include early voting in its 2005-2006 report card because it thought - perhaps naively - that a league of conservation voters ought to promote voting.

Nevertheless, early voting represents just two of the 42 floor votes (and 27 committee votes) by Mr. Harris that were scored by the league since 1999. The senator's lifetime 9 percent rating (tied for second-worst in the chamber) is still miserable whether they are included.

Just how bad does it get? Here's just a brief sampling of Mr. Harris' positions:

* He opposed the inclusion of the state's coastal bays in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area program, to protect sensitive shoreline from development in 2002.

* He voted against Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s "flush tax" to clean up sewage and septic systems in 2004.

* He gave thumbs down to setting minimum energy-efficiency standards for appliances, a measure that still passed in 2003 with sizable bipartisan support.

* He rejected in 2006 the Healthy Air Act, which requires power plants to spew less pollution into the air.

We don't know if Mr. Harris' Democratic opponent, Queen Anne's County State's Attorney Frank M. Kratovil Jr., would have done any better, but we do know he couldn't have done much worse: No current Eastern Shore delegate or senator has as bad a lifetime voting record on environmental issues. And that makes all the more indefensible Mr. Harris' unashamedly poor judgment.

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