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Environmentalists Name Ehrlich to Honor Roll

In a ‘lackluster’ legislative session, Marblehead representative singled out for leadership on environmental issues.

The Massachusetts League of Environmental Voters named state Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead, as one of the star legislators in the last legislative session that the organization described generally as "lackluster" and filled with "missed opportunities" on environmental issues.  

Ehrlich was given a 100 percent ranking on environmental issues and named to the organization's Honor Roll. She was also featured on the league's statewide call to the media to unveil the group's ratings of all legislators for the 2009-2010 legislative session.

State Senator Tom McGee, D-Lynn, was given a rating of 71 percent on votes in the state Senate for the last session.

The ratings were based primarily on how the legislators voted on seven pieces of legislation.

"What a difference a session makes. The 2007-2008 legislative session was hailed by environmentalists as one of the best in recent history. Just one session later, many are calling the 2009-2010 session lackluster for the environment," said Lora Wondolowski, executive director of the league.  

Twenty-six legislators – three senators and 23 House members -- earned 100 percent scores. The House averaged 77 percent, and the senators averaged 62 percent on the environmental votes, the league reported.

Those scores were lower than in the 2008-2009 session, when the average score in both houses was 84 percent. But there were more than twice as many legislators with perfect scores this session. Only 10 legislators were given perfect scores last session, the league said.

Ehrlich and state Senator James Eldridge, D-Acton, blamed much of the failure of key environmental legislation on the poor economy. Eldridge said it is critical that environmentalists educate state officials and the general public that environmental legislation and particularly the creation of "green" industries will generate jobs, not raise the state's unemployment rate.

The league said "major environmental legislation struggled for breathing room against the casino bill, ethics reform and a new transportation bill."

Only one major environmental bill was signed into law this session -- the off highway vehicle bill, which put stricter regulations on all terrain vehicles and stiffened penalties for riding illegally on conservation land.

"Two years ago, we hailed the Legislature for brave, forward-thinking actions," Wondolowski said. "This session was spent struggling to maintain some of those advances and unsuccessfully trying to pass some other important, but less sweeping, environmental bills."

The governor and some legislators supported environmental bills, such as updating the bottle bill, protecting open space and protecting rivers and streams, but these bills ultimately did not move forward, the league said.

A bill to weaken the endangered species law was defeated, which was a victory for the environmentalists, the league said.

"This session had, without a doubt, several missed opportunities to protect our health and environment," Wondolowski said.

Ehrlich said, "I am proud of the environmental work I have fought to accomplish in the legislature this year, but there is so much more left to be done -- including passing the Safer Alternatives, E-Waste and Bottle bills, promoting clean technology and securing budget funding for environmental protection and water infrastructure."

The Marblehead Democrat, who has been at the forefront of the Salem Harbor Power Plant fight, also is sponsoring legislation to implement tighter regulations on natural gas pipelines and to reduce the use of plastic bags.

The league named to its Honor Roll Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, who "provided strong leadership on a wide range of environmental issues," the league said.

Other honorees included Sen. Stephen Brewer, D-Barre, Rep. Thomas Calter, D-Kingston, Sen. Cindy Creem, D-Newton, Rep. Vinny DeMacedo, R-Plymouth, Rep. Jonathan Hecht, D-Cambridge, Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Pelham, Rep. Pam Richardson, D-Framingham, Rep. Byron Rushing, D- Boston, Frank Smizik, D-Brookline and Rep. Alice Wolf, D-Cambridge.

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