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Lawmakers get tough grades from environment group

The Maryland General Assembly left a number of important environmental issues on the table when it adjourned in April, environmentalists said on Monday.

In its annual scorecard rating legislators’ decisions on environmental issues, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters gave the Senate a failing grade (55 percent) while the House of Delegates was in a “D” range with 64 percent. Both numbers were calculated based on the average score of lawmakers in each chamber.

The group praised the legislature for agreeing to raise the gas tax, which is expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for transportation projects and improve public transportation options, reducing highway congestion and pollution from automobiles.

Lawmakers — on their third try — also OK’d legislation that incentivizes the development of an offshore wind energy industry in Maryland, a law that will increase business and residential utility bills but will also contribute to the state’s renewable energy goals.

But bills that would have imposed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing — the controversial natural gas drilling technique often called fracking — did not make it out of committee. Legislation intended to curb bottle and plastic bag pollution by charging fees also died in committee.

In part due to those failures, only 38 of 141 legislators earned perfect, 100 percent scores, the fewest since lawmakers took office in 2011.

“Marylanders should thank our visionary legislators who voted for Offshore Wind Energy Bill and the Transportation Funding bill to move our state’s economy into the future,” said Karla Raettig, executive director of the league. “Similarly, if they are concerned about the historic impacts of extreme weather, they should hold legislators accountable who didn’t vote to take several other opportunities to curb climate change. Why should just one bold clean energy bill pass in a session? We shouldn’t have an environmental quota.”

Senate Democrats averaged 70 percent while Republicans came in at 12 percent. Democrats in the House averaged 81 percent and Republicans averaged 26 percent. Fifteen lawmakers — all Republicans — earned zeros.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, scored 60 percent in 2013, below his career average of 70 percent. House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, scored 75 percent. His career average is 81 percent.