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Group gives local lawmakers poor ratings on environment

September 14, 2000

Group gives local lawmakers poor ratings on environment



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


Washington County lawmakers got below-average marks for their votes on environmental issues, according to recent ratings by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

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One local legislator, Sen. Alex X. Mooney, voted against every position taken by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, earning him a zero rating.

"You have to work pretty hard to get a zero," said Susan Brown, the league's executive director.

Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, said he stands by his votes and criticized the league for singling out votes that would hurt his constituents.

"They aren't environmentalists. They are extremists," he said.

Brown said Maryland voters consider the environment one of the top issues in the upcoming election.

In a recent telephone poll paid for by the league and conducted by an independent research group, likely voters in Maryland were given a choice of two candidates.

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Eighty-two percent chose the person who "believes we must protect the environment, and supports strong laws and enforcement of those laws" and 14 percent chose the person who "believes there are too many government regulations, and supports efforts to relieve the burden of regulation on business."

Some of the lawmakers who got poor ratings from the league said they consider themselves to be pro-environment.

"I want clean air and clean water just as much as everyone else," said Del. Joseph R. Bartlett, R-Frederick/Washington, who got a 14 percent from the league.

But environmental regulations need to be done in such a way that they don't trample on the rights of people and businesses, Bartlett said.

The league criticized Mooney and the majority of local lawmakers for voting against continuing the Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program.

Local lawmakers defended their vote, arguing that Washington County residents' cars should not be tested because the air here is not polluted.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, questioned how much the program is helping the environment when only 6.7 percent of the cars failed the statewide tests conducted between January and July. Newer vehicles rarely fail the test, he said.

Local lawmakers also were faulted for voting against higher subsidies for mass transportation.

Most local lawmakers said Western Maryland needs money for roads, not mass transit.

The only Washington County legislator who voted for the mass transit subsidies was Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

"Mass transit is not my favorite way to spend transportation dollars. But it's necessary, I believe, because people in the Baltimore-Washington region need to be able to get to and from their jobs without using cars," Munson said.

Munson was surprised to learn that his 44-percent rating was the highest of anyone in the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly.

Munson said Washington County is changing and needs to pay more attention to environmental issues.

Munson scored better than the two Democrats in the delegation, Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, and Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, who both got 33 percent.

Donoghue said he pays attention to his constituents, not interest groups, when he casts his votes.

"I'm not concerned in the least with that rating. It's meaningless to me," Donoghue said.

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