Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) at a N.Y. League of Conservation Voters forum in Riverhead in October 2017. File photo: Denise Civiletti

According to the League of Conservation Voters, Rep. Lee Zeldin has the worst record on environmental issues in the New York Congressional delegation.

Zeldin (R-Shirley) got a score of 24% on the League of Conservation Voters’ 2020 National Environmental Scorecard, which scored every member of both chambers of Congress based on 21 votes last year. The group gave Zeldin a 26% on his votes in the 116th Congress (2019-2020) and a 14% lifetime score.

The mostly Democratic New York congressional delegation got an 86% score overall in 2020.

Other Republicans in the 116th Congress got higher marks from the group than Zeldin did in 2020: Rep. John Katko (NY-24) 62%, Rep. Peter King (NY-2) 52%, Rep. Tom Reed (NY-23) 48%, Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY-21) 48%, and Rep. Chris Jacobs (NY-27) 33%.

“New York’s congressional delegation is serving as a role model for other states to follow in terms of environmental leadership,” the New York League of Conservation Voters said in a press release Thursday.

A Zeldin spokesperson this weekend dismissed the national group’s scorecard as “highly, highly partisan” and charged that it overlooks “many huge pro-environment wins when it would make Republicans look good.” Spokesperson Katie Vincentz did not respond to the group’s choice of 2020 votes scored, but said they ignored many pro-environment votes, while including in their scorecard votes on issues like “D.C. statehood and the partisan HEROES Act.”

“The congressman’s great environmental advocacy on behalf of his constituents speaks for itself,” she said in an email.

“The 21 House votes in LCV’s 2020 National Environmental
Scorecard advanced pro-environmental and pro-democracy bills, provisions, and government funding thanks to strong leadership from Speaker Pelosi and others,” the organization said in its report. See the full scorecard here.

The votes included in its scorecard “presented members of Congress with a real choice and help distinguish which legislators are working for environmental protection,” the report said. The scorecard “except in rare circumstances,” excludes consensus action on the environment and issues on which no recorded votes occurred.

The scorecard, released Thursday, showed Zeldin voting against what the League of Conservation Voters said was the “pro-environment vote” on 18 of the 21 votes it scored.

These included votes on:

  • funding for PFAS cleanup;
  • an amendment to block the Trump Administration’s proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter, or soot;
  • a bill to replace lead service lines that provide drinking water to communities across the country;
  • a bill to invest in “climate-ambitious infrastructure;”
  • a bill to prohibit funding for explosive nuclear testing;
  • a bill to withdraw 1 million acres of public lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park from new mining claims;
  • wilderness conservation measures;
  • a pro-environment funding package for various federal agencies that LCV said would boost funding for critical environmental, public health, and public lands programs for Fiscal Year 2021;
  • an amendment that would increase funding for renewable energy research and development;
  • and a bill to phase out harmful fishing gear in the swordfish fishery.

The House votes on these measures were largely along party lines and Zeldin voted with the Republican minority.

He cast what LCV called “pro-environment” votes on four measures:

  • a bill to address PFAS pollution, including, among other things, requiring the EPA to set a drinking water standard for PFAS and require drinking water monitoring for PFAS. The House approved the bill by a vote of 247-159, with Zeldin voting yes. The Senate took no action on this legislation.
  • a bill to reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through fiscal year 2026. The House approved the bill by a vote of 373-45. The Senate approved the bill by unanimous consent and President Trump signed it into law on January 5, 2021.
  • a bill to provide full and permanent funding of $900 million annually for the Land and Water Conservation Fund as well as funding to address the deferred maintenance backlog in national parks and other public lands. The House passed the measure by a vote of 310-107, with Zeldin voting yes. It was subsequently approved by the Senate and signed into law by the president.
  • an amendment to the “Moving Forward Act” that would have rolled back prevailing wage protections in federally aided highway and public transportation projects. The House rejected the amendment by a vote of 147-274, with Zeldin voting no.

Zeldin’s spokesperson said the congressman’s strong environmental advocacy for the First Congressional District includes:

  • successfully leading the effort to permanently save Plum Island and securing $1.5 million to stabilize its lighthouse;
  • securing over $30 million in annual funding for Long Island Sound cleanup through the Long Island Sound Program and securing full funding for the National Estuary Program.
  • delivering urgently requested support against long odds for our area’s maritime infrastructure, such as an emergency dredge of Moriches Inlet and a dredge of the Long Island Intracoastal Waterway, while advancing several vital Army Corps projects for NY-1, including the over $1 billion Fire Island to Montauk Point project, Lake Montauk Harbor, Hashomomuck Cove, Goldsmith Inlet, Reel Point Preserve, Wading River Creek and more.
  • supporting robust funding for ARPA-E, which works to develop transformative science and technology solutions to address energy, environmental, economic, and national security challenges.
  • opposing offshore drilling off the coast of Long Island.
  • leading a bipartisan group of lawmakers to provide $513 million in funding over five years for the Sea Grant Program, which helps our local fishermen and aquaculturists continue to thrive on Long Island and serve our communities while protecting our beaches and environment.
  • championing the successful effort to permanently extend the Conservation Easement Tax Credit and permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund which has supported over 90 projects in Suffolk County alone.

“All of these examples were not scored, which is shocking considering they scored DC statehood and the partisan HEROES Act,” Vincentz said.

“Protecting Long Island’s environment has, and will continue to be, one of Congressman Zeldin’s top priorities as evidenced by his leadership securing these critical victories,” Vincentz said.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.