Is Lee Zeldin Really “Good On The Environment”?

A slickly produced mailer from Lee Zeldin appeared in my mailbox this week. It touted our Congressman’s supposed record in “safeguarding our environment.” Mr. Zeldin has been very adept in pulling the wool over voters’ eyes about his actual environmental record. I have often heard from environmentally progressive friends that “Lee Zeldin is at least good on the environment.” Wrong! The League of Conservation Voters has scored him at 8% for 2016 (the most recent scorecard they have produced) and only 11% for his lifetime score. 

On his flyer, Zeldin touts his concern for”access to clean air and clean water.” Really? Then why in 2016 did he block protections for clean water (House Roll Call Vote 468), approving riders that expanded exemptions to the Clean Water Act to allow more dumping of pollutants into waterways and blocking the EPA’s Clean Water rule? (Luckily, the Senate did not vote on the riders, so they didn’t pass.)

And, talking of the EPA, why did Lee Zeldin vote in 2017 for H.R. 1430? This Orwellian-named “HONEST Act” endangers public health by making it very difficult for the EPA to use the best available science. Does he think his East End constituents will benefit from blocking good science about the health effects of pollution?

But Lee Zeldin’s attack on the EPA’s ability to carry out its mission didn’t end there. He also attacked its integrity by voting for H.R. 1431, the “EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017.” This horrific act weakens conflict-of-interest protections, thereby enshrining industry shills while barring real scientists from EPA advisory panels. It also allows industry to prolong what is already a very long scientific review process so that important public health and environmental protections get even more delayed.

Now back to Zeldin’s claim of “ensuring access to clean air and clean water.” In 2017, he voted for the “Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017” (H.R. 953), which ended Clean Water Act safeguards protecting communities from toxic pesticides. Specifically, pesticides now can be more freely discharged directly into water bodies. That vote passed with Lee Zeldin’s help. (It seems like Mr. Zeldin has an antipathy for clean water protections. He also voted in 2017 to undermine environmental reviews on water projects with his “yes” vote on H.R. 1654, which also passed with his help.)

You would think that if Mr. Zeldin really cared about the environment on the East End, he would be on the forefront of Congressional efforts to combat climate change. Wrong! In spite of the fact that new predictions forecast nine or more feet of sea level rise this century — putting our coastal properties at risk of going under water — our Congressman voted in 2017 for HR 2019. That law slashes critical investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency and prevents government from assessing the real risks and costs of climate change. 

Bizarrely, Mr. Zeldin also voted to quash an amendment that would have protected our National Ocean Policy. This means, for example, that it will be much harder for different constituencies like fisherman, conservationists and local communities to have a place at the table when ocean development issues are decided. To put this in current context, if Trump’s just-announced plans to drill for oil and gas offshore from our Atlantic coastline go forward, the ability of ocean communities to weigh in on those frightening plans got weakened by Mr. Zeldin’s vote (the bill passed.) Zeldin makes much fanfare about opposing offshore oil drilling, but in 2017 he cut off his constituents’ power to influence the policy at the knees.

This is just a snapshot of Lee Zeldin’s awful environmental record. (Check out the League of Conservation Voters to learn more.) We need a real environmental defender as our Congressman, not one like Lee Zeldin who talks a good game while stabbing our environment in the back.

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