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[If you would like a Word version of this report sent to you electronically, contact Joan Dainer at: jdainer@sunstroke.sdsu.edu]

Conservation, Population And Environmental Voting Records Of The California Congressional Delegation

Stuart H. Hurlbert and Joan S. Dainer
Department of Biology and Center for Inland Waters
San Diego State University, San Diego, California 92182-4614
27 October 2000
11 January 2002, minor revisions and a supplement


Summary

Environmental voting records of California congressmen are graded on the basis of two criteria: support for legislation aimed at reducing U.S. per capita environmental impacts (data from League of Conservation Voters website) and support for legislation favoring lower U.S. population growth rates (data from Americans for Better Immigration website). Most congressmen of both parties have poor to mediocre overall environmental voting records. Democrats tend to be stronger on reducing per capita environmental impacts, Republicans stronger on reducing the population growth rate. Reps. Brian Bilbray (R-49) and Steve Horn (R-38) have by far the best environmental voting records of the California congressional delegation. Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-34) has the worst. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D) has a stronger environmental record than any other Democratic member of California's delegation. Her record is much stronger than that of fellow Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) and than that of Rep. Tom Campbell (R-15), who is currently running against Feinstein for her Senate seat. Assessments of environmental voting records that ignore whether congressmen are voting to increase or decrease the rate of U.S. population growth can be very misleading as to who is likely to be having the most positive impact on environmental quality.

Supplement: Further analyses show essentially zero correlation between our Environmental 1:1 scores and both the LCV Conservation scores and the new CUSP (Comprehensive US Sustainable Population) scores developed by Alan Kuper. These latter are an unweighted average of scores for legislation affecting immigration (votes selected by FAIR and ABI), natural increase (votes selected by ZPG), and conservation (votes selected by LCV). If legislation affecting population growth is appropriately considered in evaluating environmental voting records, both LCV and CUSP scores can be seriously misleading. An analysis of the 2002 congressional elections shows there was no correlation between winners' margins of victory and the strength of their environmental voting records.

Prologue

"Ironically, many of the legislators who support this bill [HR4966, which would result in a 10-year amnesty of 3.4 million illegal aliens] consider themselves environmentalists and protectors of our physical fabric. ... We need a national scorecard to identify those legislators who are pulling us back from the precipice of 1 billion people - and those who mistakenly believe that 'their little increment' will never be felt."

-- Meredith Burke, America on the Path to Its First Billion,
San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 October 2000, p. B7 

Introduction

We present here a simple but more comprehensive approach to assessing the environmental records of congressmen than is currently available elsewhere. We then apply this methodology to data on the voting records of all members of California's congressional delegation. The information provided should be useful to California voters.

The same methodology could be applied to congressional delegations of other states or regions. We leave that to others. We will be glad, however, to link our website to other websites that provide similar analyses.

Our general approach is to combine environmental voting record information already synthesized by and available from other organizations. We then examine the relations of different measures or scorecards and the consequences of weighting them in different ways.

We are indebted to Alan Kuper of Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization (SUSPS) who originated this general approach to evaluation of environmental voting records.

Two Dimensions: Conservation and Population

The impact of population on the environment can be viewed as a product of 1) population density or size and 2) per capita impact on environmental values. Environmental damage can result when either factor exceeds certain limits. Maintenance or restoration of environmental quality requires that both factors be managed, directly or indirectly.

As a shorthand, we will refer to these as the population and conservation management aspects of legislators' environmental voting records.

Population Scores. The best source of information on congressional voting records affecting U.S. population growth is found on the Americans for Better Immigration (ABI) website (http://www.betterimmigration.com/). This website evaluates legislators according to how they vote on immigration legislation that would have large effects on U.S. population growth.

Immigration caused almost half of U.S. population growth since the first Earth Day in 1970 and now is the only cause of long-term U.S. population growth, given that native fertility has been below replacement level for 28 years. It is indeed disconcerting how many environmentalists and environmental scientists still are completely unaware of this. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, between 1970 and 2000 the U.S. population grew by about 72 million, of which about 32 million was due to post-1970 immigrants and their descendants. But a continuation of this post-1970 immigration will account for 100 percent of the additional growth over the next 50 years. If Congress does not change immigration laws, the Census Bureau projects that the U.S. population will increase by another 129 million by 2050. During that time, the number of post-1970 immigrants and their descendants will grow by 136 million while the rest of the U.S. population will be reduced slightly by 7 million.

Americians for Better Immigration (ABI) grades legislators' voting records on a 15 point scale ranging from A+ to F-. It does this both for the current year and for "career records." In our analysis below, we have used only the current (October 2000) grades for career records. We have converted these to a 100 point scale where A+ = 100 and F- = 0. [In fact, the Numbers USA website does give numerical scores, on a 100 point scale, for career records of legislators. We discovered this only after doing our analyses. These numerical scores never differ by more than a couple of percentage points from the ones we calculated.]

It is important to note that in calculating its grades, ABI weights all legislative actions according to the numerical effect they will have on U.S. population size. Other immigration issues or values are not considered.

Conservation Scores. The best information on congressional voting records affecting per capita impacts on the environment is found on the League of Conservation Voters website (http://scorecard.lcv.org/index.cfm). The LCV concerns itself with legislation dealing with what might be called proximal environmental issues, such as creation of reserves and wilderness areas, protection of rare and endangered species, control of emission or discharge of pollutants, management of national forests and grazing lands, and so on. It does not consider legislation relating to U.S. population growth rate. Indeed it seems to studiously avoid even mentioning that issue.

For example, Senator Spencer Abraham (R-Michigan) got a 0 rating from the LCV for his 1999 voting record on proximal environmental issues. In June 2000, the LCV put him on its "Dirty Dozen" list of candidates targeted for defeat in November 2000. But the LCV overlooks the fact that Senator Abraham's also has consistently favored high immigration rates and high rates of U.S. population growth. That record causes ABI to giving him a grade of F. With respect to the U.S. environment, Senator Abraham seems to merit the title of Destructor Maximus , in the opinion of a wide spectrum of organizations (see articles at http://www.betterimmigration.com/abraham.html).

The LCV evaluates each legislator's voting record on an annual basis, giving him or her a score on a 100 point scale. In the following analysis we use for each legislator the mean of their scores for 1998 and 1999. (The LCV has just posted scores for 2000, but as scores do not vary greatly among years we have not bothered to incorporate the new information.)

The Record and Disclaimers

The basic information provided by the ABI and LCV websites is given in an appendix at the end of this report. Our brief discussion of voting record patterns will focus on four charts (Figures 1-4).

The value and validity of the data presented is a function of the care, integrity and judiciousness with which the LCV and ABI have carried out and reported their evaluations. From all that we know of these organizations, we believe they have high standards. If notified of any errors, they doubtless would be quick to correct them.

The simplicity of our analysis and charts belies the complexities underlying the voting records of these California congressmen. Both conservation and population issues interact with large numbers of other social and economic issues. Congressmen vary greatly in their experience, philosophies, and constituencies. For such reasons we attempt no deep analysis in this short report. We hope mainly to raise provocative questions in people's minds and to stimulate people to think about what positive steps they can take toward protecting the environment in the long and short term by engaging in the political process.

Negative Correlation: Population Score versus Conservation Score

Our first chart (Figure 1 ) plots the conservation score and population score for representatives listed in order of district number. For five freshmen - indicated by the label, "too new" - one or both of the LCV and ABI websites provides no score.

Two patterns stand out in Figure 1.

 

First, for most congressmen the line connecting their population with their conservation score is long. Generally where one score was high, the other was low. Only in four cases (Campbell, Condit, Dooley, Thomas) were both scores low or mediocre, and only in two cases (Horn, Bilbray) were both scores on the high side.

Second, Democrats generally had the highest conservation scores and Republicans the highest population scores.

Figure 2 shows more dramatically the negative correlation between the two scores and also the extreme polarization of the voting records of the two parties. Where more than one point falls on a given coordinate, points have been offset slightly so that all show.

The coefficient of determination (R2) of 0.71 yielded by a regression analysis of these data tells us that if we know the conservation score of a congressman, we have, on average, 71 percent of the information we need to predict their population score. And the negative slope (- 0.84) in the regression equation tells us that the population score will tend to be at the opposite end of the scale from the conservation score.

The "northeast" quadrant of Figure 2 is terrifyingly vacant. This tells us why environmental degradation continues apace in the U.S. The Democrats don't have the smarts to see the need for U.S. population stabilization, and the Republicans don't have the smarts to see the need for reduction in U.S. per capita impacts on the environment.

Perhaps the lonely occupants of this quadrant - Feinstein, Bilbray, and Horn - could form a bipartisan task force to lead the rest of their colleagues northeastward to the Promised Land.

The southwestern quadrant of Figure 2 is also nearly vacant. Sometimes we must be grateful for small things.

Overall Environmental Scores

An overall environmental score was calculated for each congressman first by simply averaging their population and conservation scores. By this measure, most legislators have very mediocre records with environmental scores in the range of 30-60 (Figure 3). The pattern shown is just another way of showing the information in Figure 2 . It exemplifies the dismal collective environmental record of the California congressional delegation.

We also have the option of weighting the population and conservation scores differently. There is no reason why they should be weighted the same, and there are strong arguments why an overall environmental score should be based on a heavier weighting of the population score.

First, U.S. population growth is increasing more rapidly than is per capita impact on the environment, as the latter might be estimated, for example, by per capita consumption of resources or per capita production of wastes.

Second, technically and politically, large reductions in U.S. population growth rate are more feasible than are large reductions in U.S. per capita impacts on the environment. A 10 percent reduction in population growth rate could be rapidly and easily achieved by a moderate reduction in immigration rates. A rapid 10 percent reduction in overall per capita resource consumption and waste production would require draconian measures.

Third, the positive effects of even large reductions in U.S. per capita rates of resource consumption would be quickly cancelled if the U.S. population growth rate continued high. Within a few years we would be back where we started from.

For example, assume that somehow we achieved a 10 percent reduction in U.S. per capita consumption of resources (food, forest products, fossil fuels, minerals, land, etc.). This would accomplish a major reduction in per capita environmental impacts. With the U.S. continuing to grow at 1.3 percent per year, however, total U.S. resource consumption would in less than 9 years be just as high as it was prior to the 10 percent cut in per capita resource use. Then what do we do? Ask everyone to cut back an additional 10 percent?

The decision as to how much more to weight the population factor is largely subjective. It also depends on the relative weight that one wants to assign to short-, medium-, and long-term consequences. We opted for focusing on the medium- and long-term ones and for weighting population and conservation scores in the ratio of 3 to 1. Persons favoring other weightings can take the basic data in our appendix and do their own analyses.

The pattern of the new overall environmental scores is quite different (Figure 4). There is greater differentiation, with many more congressmen scoring less than 30 or more than 70 than when the 1:1 weighting is used. There is also a sharper line between the Republican and Democratic contingents, with the Republicans seemingly having the stronger overall environmental record. This is just the opposite of what the LCV conservation scores taken by themselves seem to show.

From Champions to Terminators

Congressmen are labelled in Figures 3 and 4 according to their overall environmental scores as: Champions (80-100), Silver Medalists (60-79), Fence Straddlers (41-59), Dark Siders (31-40), or Terminators (1-30). For most congressmen, their label changes as the relative weighting of population and conservation scores changes.

The labels are not entirely facetious. Champions are few as is always the case. Silver medalists are numerous with the 3:1 weighting, though it is probably overgenerous to be giving out silver medals for scores as low as 60. The Dark Siders and the Terminators are lead (ex)terminators of environmental quality. They themselves perhaps should be targeted for early termination, unless something of unusual redeeming social value can be found in other portions of their voting records.

Details of congressmen's individual population and conservation voting records can be found on the LCV and ABI websites. We attempt no profound analysis of them here. Certain results common to both the 1:1 and 3:1 weighting approaches are worth noting however.

Bilbray (R-49) and Horn (R-38) have by far the best environmental voting records of any California congressmen. Napolitano (D-34) has the worst. Ranking among the ten worst in both Figures 3 and 4 are also: Thompson (D-1), Tauscher (D-10), Lofgren (D-16), Capps (D-22), Martinez (D-31), and Sanchez (D-46). Senator Feinstein (D) has a stronger environmental record than any other Democratic member of California's delegation. Feinstein's record is much stronger than that of fellow Senator Boxer (D). It is also much stronger than that of Campbell (R-15) who is currently running against Feinstein for her seat.

Conclusions

The major conclusion of this exercise is that assessment of environmental voting records of congressmen is radically affected by whether or not votes on legislation affecting the rate of U.S. population growth are taken into account and by what weight is given to that issue. The apparent environmental 'friendliness' of individual congressmen and their rankings relative to each other are greatly affected by what is done here.

Some persons feel that whether a congressman is voting to increase or decrease the U.S. population growth rate should be irrelevant to his or her environmental credentials. Such persons can continue to rely on websites such as that of the League of Conservation Voters for assessment of environmental voting records.

Other persons will recognize that the rate of U.S. population growth is a strong determinant of environmental health. They will want to take a more comprehensive approach than does the LCV, perhaps one similar to that demonstrated here.

Acknowledgments

We acknowledge three special sources of inspiration for this project. Alan Kuper, a founder of Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization (SUSPS), first suggested to us the idea of combining congressional voting record data already available on different websites. He is undertaking a related project of his own.

Roy Beck and Leon Kolankiewicz's recent article, The environmental movement's retreat from advocating U.S. population stabilization (1970-1998): A first draft of history (Journal of Policy History 12(1):123-156, January 2000) (available at http://www.betterimmigration.com/ ) recounts a sad, and hopefully temporary, triumph of ideology over reason among U.S. environmentalists and environmental scientists. This further encouraged an examination of the consequences of bringing legislation affecting U.S. population growth back into consideration as a determinant of the quality of environmental voting records.

We acknowledge the efforts of organizations such as Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) to address the population-environment connections that mainline environmental organizations have found too hot to handle. CAPS and other population-focused organizations now seem more effective fighters for the medium- and long-term environmental health of the U.S. than all the U.S. environmental organizations and U.S. environmental scientific societies put together.

Finally, we acknowledge Rep. Bob Filner (D-50) for suggesting to us last year that the attention of congressmen may be better gained by public display, criticism or commentary on their records than by the writing of letters. We hope he is not disappointed by the present effort.

Appendix: Scores for California Congressional Delegation

Legislators

Conservation Scorea

Population Scoreb

Evironmental Score 1:1c

Environmental Score 3:1d

Thompson, Mike (D-1)

69

0

35

17

Herger, Wally (R-2)

7

100

53

77

Ose, Douglas (R-3)

too new      7e

Doolittle, John (R-4)

7

93

50

71

Matsui, Robert (D-5)

90

0

45

23

Woolsey, Lynn (D-6)

97

7

52

29

Miller, George (D-7)

94

21

57

39

Pelosi, Nancy (D-8)

92

0

46

23

Lee, Barbara (D-9)

97

7

52

30

Tauscher, Ellen (D-10)

86

0

43

21

Pombo, Richard (R-11)

8

71

40

55

Lantos, Tom (D-12)

83

7

45

26

Stark, Pete (D-13)

87

0

44

22

Eshoo, Anna (D-14)

96

29

62

46

Campbell, tom (R-15)

56

43

49

46

Lofgren, Zoe (D-16)

73

7

40

24

Farr, Sam (D-17)

89

29

59

44

Condit, Gary (D-18)

39

50

45

47

Radanovich, George (R-19)

8

100

54

77

Dooley, Calvin (D-20)

42

21

32

26

Thomas, William (R-21)

10

50

30

40

Capps, Lois (D-22)

82

0

41

21

Gallegly, Elton (R-23)

12

100

56

78

Sherman, Brad (D-24)

95

0

48

24

McKeon, Howard (R-25)

10

100

55

78

Berman, Howard (D-26)

90

7

49

28

Rogan, James (R-27)

17

86

52

69

Dreier, David (IR-28)

10

93

52

72

Waxman, Henry (D-29)

99

21

60

40

Becerra, Xavier (D-30)

86

7

47

27

Martinez, Matthew (D-31)

64

7

35

21

Dixon, Julian (D-32)

95

7

51

29

Royal-Allard, Lucille (D-33)

94

7

50

29

Napolitano, Grace (D-34)

41

0

20

10

Waters, Maxine (D-35)

85

21

53

37

Kuykendall, Steven (D-36)

too new

Millender-McDonald, Juanita (D-37)

90

29

59

44

Horn, Steve (R-38)

59

100

80

90

Royce, Ed (R-39)

19

100

59

80

Lewis, Jerry (R-40)

17

64

41

52

Miller, Gary (R-41)

too new

Baca, Joe (D-42)

too new

Calvert, Ken (R-43)

7

100

54

77

Bono, Mary (R-44)

too new

--

93e

93

Rohrabacher, Dana (R-45)

19

71

45

58

Sanchez, Loretta (D-46)

72

0

36

18

Cox, Christopher (R-47)

17

93

55

74

Packard, Ron (R-48)

5

100

53

76

Bilbray, Brian (R-49)

71

100

85

93

Filner, Bob (D-50)

97

7

52

29

Cunningham, Randy (R-51)

8

93

51

72

Hunter, Duncan (R-52)

7

86

47

66

Boxer, Barbara (D) - Senator

91

21

56

39

Feinstein, Diane (D) - Senator

100

50

75

63

a Average League of Conservation Voters Score for 1998 & 1999
b ABI Career Immigration Report Card Score
c Average of Population Score and Conservation Score, weighted 1:1
d Average of Population Score and Conservation Score, weighted 3:1
e Based on 1999 only

A SUPPLEMENT

We present three additional analyses, based in part of results of the Novenber 2000 elections and the newly published CUSP environmental scorecard.

Consequences of relying on the LCV Conservation Score

We first asked, 'What is the nature of the correlation between the LCV conservation score and the overall environmental score based on the 1:1 weighting?' The answer is shown in Figure 5. There is essentially no correlation between the two scores.

 

 

The practical import of this finding is significant. Let us assume that the overall environmental score is indeed the better measure of the quality of an environmental voting record. If that is the case, one might as well flip a coin as rely on the scores provided by the League of Conservation Voters in attempting to choose the better of two candidates.

If overall environmental scores were based on a heavier weighting of the population score, then the dedicated environmentalist would be most effective, on average, voting for the candidate with the lower LCV conservation score!

This is apparent when one compares Figure 2 with Figure 5. As the population score is given a heavier and heavier weighting in the overall environmental score, the points in Figure 5. will shift toward a distribution like that in Figure 2.

 

Environmental Credentials and the November 2000 races.

The second question we posed was, 'For this group of legislators and their challengers how did electoral success in the November 2000 election correlate with their environmental credentials?'

The question could not be answered directly, as population and conservation scores were lacking for most challengers. Taking an indirect approach, we plotted overall environmental score (calculated with the 1:1 weighting of conservation and population records) of each incumbent against the margin of their victory or defeat. See Figure 6.

The result is not heartening. The correlation of these two measures is close to zero. Ideally most points would cluster in the upper right quadrant or the lower left one. That is, incumbents with strong environmental records would tend to 'win big' and those with poor such records would 'lose big.' But no such luck.

The slight negative slope to the regression line in Figure 6 reflects the bad luck of the two incumbents with the best overall environmental scores: Horne (R-38) won by a squeaker, and Bilbray (R-49) lost by a squeaker. Those results stand in contrast to the general trend where incumbents have poor to mediocre environmental records but win with an average margin of about 40 percent!

We regret not to have more positive news for the environment.

Need for Revision of CUSP Environmental Scores

Finally we asked how our Environmental Scores compared with the CUSP (Comprehensive US Sustainable Population) Environmental Scores. The CUSP scoring system was designed by Sierra Club member and longtime population activist Alan Kuper. Its method and the scores it yields for all members of the U.S. Congress can be found at www.uscongress-enviroscore.org.

In brief, the CUSP score for a Congressman is calculated as the unweighted average of three scores (all on a 100 point scale) - one for conservation from the LCV website, one for immigration calculated from votes selected by the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), with assistance from the ABI website, and one for natural increase from the Zero Population Growth (ZPG) website. Some fine tuning of scores was carried out and is fully described on the CUSP website. ZPG cores were included in order to give credit for votes favoring legislation that would tend to reduce population growth by encouraging reduced family size.

To our surprise, there is almost zero correlation between our Environmental 1:1 Scores and CUSP Environmental Scores (Figure 7). Knowing how well a congressman scored on one scale tells us almost nothing about how well they scored on the other. So by no means can one of these scoring methods be considered a surrogate for the other. They are weighting things very differently and would lead voters to very different conclusions as to the voting records of congressmen.

 

The main reason for this situation is that there is a negative correlation between ZPG scores and immigration (FAIR or ABI) scores. Thus a major effect of basing the CUSP score partly on the ZPG score is to undo much of the "good" resulting from also basing it on the immigration score. This makes the CUSP score a very strong predictor of the LCV score, and vice versa (Figure 8). The LCV score alone accounts for 87 percent of the variability among the CUSP scores, even though the LCV scores ignore how congressmen vote on population issues.

As do the LCV scores taken by themselves, the CUSP scores make the Democrats look much better than the Republicans (Figure 8). Mean CUSP score for the former is 65 and for the latter is 31. On the other hand, mean Environmental 1:1 Scores are 49 for the Democrats and 53 for Republicans. We believe the more or less equally dismal overall environmental voting record of each party suggested by this latter pair of mean scores is closer to the truth.

In principle, we agree that scores for overall environmental voting records should take into account votes on legislation affecting natural increase, i.e. birth rates and family size in the U.S. There are two problems, however, with the way in which the CUSP score does this using the votes selected by ZPG.

First, many of the pieces of legislation selected by ZPG for scoring would have little or no measurable impact on the rate of natural increase of the U.S. population. These include bills concerning increased penalties for violence against abortion clinics, coverage of costs of contraceptives by the government for federal employees, funding of family planning in other countries, and so on (see CUSP website). These are important social issues - and ones on which the two parties often have sharp differences - but they are not ones likely to have direct demographic or environmental consequences.

Second, the CUSP score weights natural increase (the ZPG score) and immigration (the FAIR score) equally. Yet the contribution of natural increase to U.S. population growth is very much less than the contribution of immigration at current rates. This equal weighting thus cannot be justified. It would be possible to calculate appropriate weights using, for example, demographic data for the past ten years or demographic predictions for the next ten years.

Both of these problems can be fixed. If they were, we suspect the revised CUSP scores would show very strong correlation with our Environmental 1:1 scores.

Though we offer this critique of the CUSP scoring system that he developed, we again acknowledge Alan Kuper's early inspiration for our own work in this area.

 

 


Comprehensive US Sustainable Population (CUSP) Congressional Environmental Scorecard

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