By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — An environmental watchdog group rates North Country state lawmakers poorly on its annual report card.
But the trio of legislators say that assessment is not viable.
The environmental group EPL/Environmental Advocates rated lawmakers based on their votes on bills with environmental implications in 2012.
Assemblywomen Janet Duprey (R-Peru) and Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro) had scores of 41 out of 100 points and 53 out of 100, respectively, and State Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) had the worst score, with 18.
“Northern New York is one of the most beautiful regions in the country, but you would never know it by the way most of its elected officials voted,” EPL Executive Director Rob Moore said in a statement.
“We saw scores fall across the board for each of the legislative conferences, based on a variety of factors, including the lack of action on bills most critical to our environmental health, as well as an increase in the passage of the bills that actually do harm.”
Duprey, who has been in the Assembly since 2007, said EPL’s report is flawed.
“This group of environmentalists have a very different view of what is good for the North Country, particularly to the Adirondacks, than those of us who live here,” she said.
“Many of their bills are opposed by the agriculture community, as further restrictions increase the cost of farming. Our farmers make their living off the land, and they are good stewards of the environment and don’t need my well-meaning but misguided colleagues from downstate telling them how to operate their farms.”
Duprey said she supported some legislation, such as restricting transportation of invasive species into the region, and she opposed such bills as forcing homes with private wells to pay for testing.
“In reviewing and determining which environmental bills to support, I rely on input from the constituents affected and North Country common sense,” she said.
“It appears their scores are also based on the bills that were not submitted for a vote, and I’m not sure how rank-and-file members are held accountable for the action, or lack of action, by leadership.”
Timothy Carpenter, a Democrat who is challenging Duprey in the 115th District race this year, said the EPL report was alarming.
“I think it is sad that there are such poor scores for people (legislators) who live here,” he said.
“I love the environment, and that is one of the reasons why people live here. We have to protect it.”
Carpenter said he understands that many of the bills in question may be complicated when it comes to protecting the environment.
“But the bottom line is we have to protect it,” he said.
He noted that Democrats in Albany had an overall better record, with a score of 89 to just 49 for Republicans.
“That’s another reason why we need to elect a Democrat,” he said, referring to the majority in the Assembly.
Karen Bisso, who is also running in the 115th District as a Conservative Party candidate, said EPL is a liberal environmental group. She also said Republican legislators got low marks for supporting agriculture, motorized vehicles and outdoor wood boilers.
“This is just another eco group trying to push, ‘the Republicans are for dirty air and water’ agenda,” said Bisso, who lost a Republican primary last month to Duprey.
“Frankly, I cherish the idea of being able to come into a warm house heated by wood, after a hard day of ATVing and have a nice steak from one of our local farms.”
VOTE ON MERITS
Sen. Little, who is running unopposed, said she was not too concerned with getting the lowest score.
“I vote on legislation based on the merits, not on a rating system and with consideration of a scorecard,” she said.
“Some votes cast aren’t going to be popular with special-interest groups that have specific agendas. I do think that my voting record reflects my concern for where our economy is today and the importance of enacting policies that promote job growth and opposing (those) that make it tougher for businesses to survive.”
Sayward, who is retiring at the end of the year, also was critical of the report card, saying that many of the bills on which the grades were based had nothing to do with the environment.
“Many of those bills have to do with issues involving the Adirondack Park and North Country farmers, businesses and would hamper the economic well-being of the area,” she said.
“Mandatory rules regarding private well-water testing is one small example. If you look at all of the bills that were rated, you would conclude that all three of the North Country representatives should be proud of their scores.”
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