Texas Congressional Republicans Approach Zero on Environmental Record

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Texas Republicans in the U.S. House did something truly impressive in the last session of Congress: Their voting records on the environment were even worse than the previous session, according to the League of Conservation Voters’ latest legislative scorecard. While the Texas GOP members collectively cast pro-environment votes 7.5 percent of the time in the last session of the 112th Congress, they sided with the environment a little more than 4 percent of the time in the first session of the 113th. At this rate, zero is within grasping distance.

Only one of the 24 Republicans in the House, Houston Rep. John Culberson, scored more than 10 percent. Five congressmen got the special distinction of scoring zero, taking what LCV considers a non-green position on all 28 key votes.

Not surprisingly, Texas Republicans favored policies beneficial to the oil and gas industry, including expanding offshore drilling and fracking, and voted against measures to protect air, water and green spaces. Many of the bills or amendments they favored would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to oversee industry and regulate toxic emissions and byproducts, including coal ash. Along with a handful of Democrats, they voted against clean energy funding and for legislative approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Canadian tar sands to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

Five Texas congressmen managed a perfect score. Call them the Zero Club—Reps. Ralph Hall, Joe Barton, Mike Conaway, Pete Olson and Blake Farenthold.

worst reps
These five House Republicans received a score of zero when they sided against the environment on all 28 key votes. From left: Ralph Hall, R-Rockwall; Joe Barton, R-Ennis; Mike Conaway, R-Midland; Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land; Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi.

Democrats in the House voted “for” the environment one percent more than they did the previous session, at just under 77 percent. Three Democrats got scores of 96, but two scored under 50 percent.

The greenest there were freshmen Beto O’Rourke of El Paso and Joaquin Castro of San Antonio. Long-time green stalwart Lloyd Doggett of Austin rounded out the trio.

best dems
These Texas House Democrats got the highest scores on the League of Conservation Voters scorecard, with scores of 96. From left: Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso; Lloyd Dogget, D-Austin; Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, from Laredo, dropped from his already low score of 49 in the previous session to 29 this session, when he consistently favored fossil fuels and voted against measures protecting clean air and water. Cuellar joined four other Democrats in supporting legislative approval of Keystone XL, which requires a presidential permit. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, also scored under 50 percent, siding with the environment 46 percent of the time.

The worst-ranking Texas Democrats, by the League of Conservation Voters' standards. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo (left) and Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville (right).
The worst-ranking Texas Democrats, by the League of Conservation Voters’ standards. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo (left) and Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville (right).

Every single Democrat sided “against” the environment when he voted in favor of a Republican-introduced amendment to the 2014 omnibus funding bill that would keep FEMA from ending highly subsidized flood insurance rates. The League of Conservation Voters argues that the “artificially discounted flood insurance rates” lead to the development, and ultimately destruction, of floodplains. Six Republicans sided with the Democrats on this one, making it the only issue where a majority of GOPers voted in favor of the environment, by the LCV’s standards.

In the Senate, John Cornyn’s only “pro-environment” vote went to approving President Barack Obama’s appointment of Sally Jewell, the former CEO of REI, as secretary of the interior, which all but 11 senators did. He sided against the environment on the remaining 12 issues. Ted Cruz also approved Jewell, and cast another “pro-environment” vote when he rejected an amendment that would support Paul Ryan’s alternative budget plan. Though that plan would have continued billions of dollars in subsidies to the oil industry and would have lowered corporate income taxes, Cruz’s problem with it was that it would have funded Obamacare and would have increased spending in the short term.

The senators agreed on everything else, including cutting $60 million from the Department of Defense’s budget for advancing biofuels. According to the League of Conservation Voters, the DOD is the single largest energy user in the nation. They also both rejected Obama’s appointment of Gina McCarthy to the EPA, and voted for measures that would prevent federal agencies like the EPA from reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Like their counterparts in the House, they voted against all clean air and water protections and for Keystone XL.

Here’s the full run-down by congressmember.

Texas Senate Scores:

Cornyn
8
Cruz
15
Texas House Scores 
Gohmert
7
Poe
4
Johnson, S.
4
Hall
4
Hensarling
7
Barton
0
Culberson
11
Brady, K.
7
Green, A.
89
McCaul
4
Conway
0
Granger
7
Thornberry
4
Weber
4
Hinojosa
82
O’Rourke
96
Flores
4
Jackson Lee
82
Neugebauer
4
Castro
96
Smith, Lamar
7
Olson
0
Gallego
64
Marchant
7
Williams
4
Burgess
4
Farenthold
0
Cuellar
29
Green, G.
54
Johnson, E.
93
Carter
29
Sessions, P.
4
Veasey
93
Vela
46
Doggett
96
Stockman
4