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An Award You Don't Want to Get



October 20, 2009

NEW YORK - Usually politicians like to get awards. But not this one. It's called the "Oil Slick Award" and it's given to officials who are regarded as doing the worst job protecting the environment. The winner this year is New York state Senator Craig Johnson, Democrat of Garden City on Long Island.

David Gahl, policy director for EPL Environmental Advocates, says Johnson spent much of the last legislative session gumming up the works for green bills in Albany.

"There are certain senators now that have a lot of power to hold things up. And a guy like Craig Johnson is a good example of that; he used all of his influence this year to tie up a bill that would have required the recycling of toxic electronic waste. "

Johnson defended his stand against the E-Waste bill, saying it would have created burdensome problems for local businesses like Canon. Gahl says Johnson's positions seem to change with the seasons, because in 2008 when he was a candidate for re-election he was a co-sponsor of many major environmental bills.

Gahl says the gap grew wider between Democrats who mostly support green legislation and Republican opponents in this year's EPL Environmental Advocates Voters' Guide.

"This year it's just exploded; we had a 66-point gap between the highest score and the lowest score. There's a deeply partisan atmosphere over there and it's driving a lot of votes."

Gahl says Senate Democrats scored a "C" average of 73 percent support for green bills, while Senate Republicans flunked out with an average score of 30.

Dick Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, says lawmakers were right to put the economy as their top concern but, he says, polls show voters also want action on the environment.

"You ask people to rate the environment and on a scale of one to ten, it's always right up there at the top. So the public's very concerned about it, and we're very concerned that there's some politicians who just don't get it. "

The guide will be posted on the Web as of today at www.eplvotersguide.org

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY
 

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