Local legislators receive poor scores from conservation watchdog

jojacobs@tidewaterreview.com

A conservation watchdog group gave low marks to Tidewater legislators in its annual voting record report.

The Virginia League of Conservation Voters' annual scorecard scores delegates and senators based on how they vote on legislation the environmental group deemed beneficial or detrimental to the environment during the General Assembly's session.

Del. Chris Peace, R-Hanover; Del. Keith Hodges, R-Urbanna; and Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City, flunked based on the group's criteria — none received higher than 55 percent, according to the report.

Hodges, who represents the 98th District in the House, panned the report as incomplete. Hodges received a 55 percent score in the report.

"It's only a snapshot," said Hodges, who added that the group doesn't propose solutions to issues.

The report doesn't include mention of House Bill 1774. Hodges patroned the stormwater bill, which he said will improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

The passed bill instructs the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency to create a group to consider stormwater management methods in rural Tidewater localities.

Hodges's score is an improvement compared to his 40 percent score for the 2016 General Assembly session. The Virginia League of Conservation Voters took issue with Hodges' support of legislation that the group said circumvents project evaluation, strips the governor's authority and bypasses oil and gas drilling regulation.

Peace, who received a 58 percent score on the report, took aim at legislation supported by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters he considered undemocratic.

"(Virginia League of Conservation Voters) scored favorably many votes on legislation that relate to bolstering the powers of the governor and unelected bureaucrats," Peace said.

He cited House Bill 1974 — a bill he supported but was viewed unfavorably by the environmental group — which would require the Department of Environmental Quality to get General Assembly approval for a state plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. The bill didn't pass.

Peace, who represents the 97th District, scored a 33 percent in 2016.

Norment, the Senate majority leader, received a 58 percent score.

The environmental group objected to Norment's yes votes on legislation such as Senate Bill 806 and Senate Bill 1470, which would have fast tracked construction of I-73 by using funds earmarked for Route 58 and extended the sunset on coal tax credits to 2022, respectively. The former passed while the latter was vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Norment's office didn't respond to a request for comment. Norment received a 57 percent score in 2016.

The environmental group criticized Peace's and Norment's voting records largely for the same reasons it panned Hodges' record, such as supporting bills the group viewed as usurping executive branch authority and ignoring regulations.

Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.

Virginia League of Conservation Voters scorecard

Norment: 58 percent.

Hodges: 55 percent.

Peace: 58 percent.

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