Panorama General 2022

Background on the National Environmental Scorecard

The nonprofit League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has published a National Environmental Scorecard every Congress since 1970, the year it was founded by leaders of the environmental movement following the first Earth Day. LCV believes our earth is worth fighting for because everyone has a right to clean air, water, lands, and a safe, healthy community.

This edition of the National Environmental Scorecard provides objective, factual information about the most important environmental legislation considered and the corresponding voting records of all members of the second session of the 117th Congress. This Scorecard represents the consensus of experts from more than 20 respected environmental, environmental justice, and conservation organizations who selected the key votes on which members of Congress should be scored. LCV scores votes on the most important issues of the year, including energy, climate change, public health, environmental and racial justice, worker protection, democracy, public lands and wildlife conservation, and spending for environmental programs. The votes included in this Scorecard presented members of Congress with a real choice and help distinguish which legislators are working for environmental protection. Except in rare circumstances, the Scorecard excludes consensus action on the environment and issues on which no recorded votes occurred.

Dedicated environmentalists and national leaders volunteered their time to identify and research crucial votes. We extend special thanks to our Board of Directors, Issues & Accountability Committee, and Scorecard Advisory Committee for their valuable input.

Overview of the 2022 National Environmental Scorecard

In 2022, Congress made historic progress on climate and other critical environmental and equity issues.

The second session of the 117th Congress was exceptionally productive, the highlight being passage and enactment into law of the historic Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which invested roughly $369 billion in advancing clean energy, creating good jobs, and fighting climate change and environmental injustice. This clean energy plan was finalized against an ongoing backdrop of deadly and destructive wildfires, extreme storms, and flooding - and as climate impacts continue to ravage communities across the country, these investments came without a moment to lose.

In addition to passing huge investments in climate solutions in 2022, Congress also made progress to reauthorize a climate-smart Water Resources Development Act, invest in U.S. manufacturing and science, and provide reasonable FY23 government funding for environmental programs. Intertwined with advancing environmental protections were also successful steps to protect our democracy and advance equity, including the passage of improved protections for our democracy during the presidential transition and federalized protections for same-sex and interracial marriages. Taken together, this progress demonstrates that pro-environment, pro-democracy leadership delivered important benefits to families and communities across the country, while strengthening our economy and safeguarding our future.

In the Senate, we scored 23 votes in 2022, and given the tremendous importance of the IRA we took the very rare step of double scoring it. We included eight votes from the first vote series necessary to advance the IRA, which were primarily unsuccessful Republican amendments intended to derail historic progress while pushing a pro-polluter agenda that prioritized handouts to various fossil fuel industries, attacks on bedrock environmental laws, and the elimination of multiple pollution-reducing, money-saving programs.

The Senate slate also includes two votes that would have undermined environmental review and public input that are mandated in the National Environmental Policy Act for major federal projects. Dozens of Republican senators voted against one of these measures – the motion to advance Senator Manchin’s permitting rollback legislation –because they believed the measures did not go far enough to weaken our bedrock environmental safeguards. We scored two votes related to international cooperation to tackle climate change – the unsuccessful attempt by Senator Lee to withdraw the U.S. from the United Nations Framework and the successful, bipartisan vote to ratify the Kigali treaty to slash hydrofluorocarbons, which are climate super pollutants. 

We also scored two votes on critical legislation to protect our democracy and voting rights that unfortunately failed to advance over near-united Republican opposition. These bills, the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act and the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act, passed the House but could not overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate.

The Senate votes also include two to safeguard equity – marriage and reproductive rights – from an extremist Supreme Court majority cemented by former President Trump. Like last year, this year’s Scorecard again includes three judicial confirmation votes that advance historic, personally and professionally diverse nominees – Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, Holly Thomas to the Ninth Circuit, and Ariana Freeman to the Third Circuit. This sample represents just some of President Biden’s highly qualified nominees, and reinforces the importance of the Senate approving an almost record number of judges to the appeals courts.

In the House, we scored 19 votes in 2022, and given the tremendous importance of the IRA we took the very rare step of double scoring it here as well. We included a handful of votes on climate action, safeguarding public lands, protecting wildlife, and adequately funding federal environmental programs. At a time when oil and gas companies amassed record profits, the House voted to protect people from fossil fuel executives who were price-gouging at the pump during Putin’s war on Ukraine. We also scored a vote that gave data centers and other computer-based projects a free pass to circumvent important environmental review and public comment. Regrettably, there was not the opportunity to score a vote on the entire Environmental Justice for All Act in either chamber, though some parts of it were included in a House-passed drought resilience package (see Champions of Color Leading the Way for more on the EJ for All Act).

Spurred by voter discrimination efforts in states, especially targeted at people of color, the House again passed much needed democracy and voting rights reforms. And, like the Senate, we scored House votes that improved the peaceful transfer of power, protected marriage equality, and would have guaranteed access to reproductive healthcare.

Even as anti-environment leadership takes narrow, unruly control of the U.S. House, where climate deniers and other fossil fuel allies will set the agenda in 2023, 2022 was a banner year, defined by congressional actions that advanced climate solutions and environmental justice nationwide, building the foundation for a clean, equitable future with good jobs and lower costs for families everywhere. The contrast of relevant House committee chairs’ transition could not be more stark; outgoing 117th chairs had an average LCV lifetime score of 92% and incoming 118th chairs have an average LCV lifetime score of 5%. We look forward to continued work with the Biden-Harris administration and pro-environment members of Congress to defend, highlight, and implement the historic investments of the 117th session and secure strong federal executive safeguards for communities’ health, public lands, and our climate.  

Highlight on the Inflation Reduction Act

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA, or clean energy plan) will cut nearly a gigaton of emissions and put the U.S. on track with our commitment to cut climate warming pollution in half by 2030, when paired with updated strong federal regulations and further state climate policy advances. To blunt the continuing impacts of the climate crisis, these cuts in pollution are imperative and the enacted clean energy plan will have a swift impact on people's daily lives. These crucial provisions will provide communities with the jobs and energy cost savings that accompany energy efficient products, clean energy, and electric vehicle manufacturing and installation; programs and infrastructure that prioritize environmental justice like community solar and electric buses, trucks, and port equipment; and investments that will encourage climate-smart agriculture. Unfortunately, this landmark legislation also included potentially damaging provisions designed to benefit the still-too-powerful fossil fuel industry that could have disproportionately harmful impacts on Indigenous communities, people of color, and other front-line communities. We will continue fighting to mitigate the possible harm of these provisions – fighting against more oil and gas leasing, drilling, pipelines,  and other dangerous measures.

Passing this historic clean energy plan required resolve and leadership from Congress, pro-environment chairs of congressional committees, the Biden-Harris administration, and people and communities across the country. Activists led a multi-year effort with a broad coalition that included national and state environmental organizations, labor unions, environmental justice organizations, and clean energy companies and associations to build the momentum that the fossil fuel industry and other well-funded entrenched interests could not stop. Similarly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, congressional committee chairs, other congressional climate champions, and White House officials found a path forward despite many obstacles and roadblocks. This victory was truly a collective effort.

Champions of Color Leading The Way

The 2022 National Environmental Scorecard demonstrates that the pro-environment majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, in partnership with the Biden-Harris administration, continued their push to pass and enact legislation to protect our air, water, lands, and ecosystems, defend our democracy, and combat the climate crisis – culminating in the passage and enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a landmark package of roughly $369 billion of historic investments in advancing clean energy, creating good jobs, and fighting climate change and environmental injustice.

Many of the climate and democracy bills and initiatives introduced and advanced through Congress in 2022 – either independently or included in the final IRA – were led and supported by members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), collectively referred to as the Tri-Caucus.

Leadership on Legislation

Black, Latinx, and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) members of the Tri-Caucus - in addition to their Indigenous and other colleagues of color - continued to be a trailblazing force for pro-environment legislation in the second session of the 117th Congress. Below are highlights of that leadership in action:

Environmental Justice

One of the marquee bills to advance environmental justice in the House in 2022 was the Environmental Justice for All Act, introduced by Representatives Raúl Grijalva and Donald McEachin. Drafted as a product of a ground-breaking, years-long, and community-based process, the Environmental Justice for All Act is a significant step toward confronting the legacy of environmental racism that disproportionately impacts low-wealth and communities of color. The bill included bold policies that would strengthen the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to require federal agencies to consider the cumulative and disproportionate impacts of pollution on communities of color and those of low-wealth. Additionally, the bill would use new fees on oil, gas, and coal companies to fund investments in environmental justice communities. Portions of the bill were included in a drought and resilience package that passed the House. We will continue to press for the entire bill’s passage. Rep. Grijalva’s leadership against weakening NEPA was also on display as he rallied nearly 90 colleagues to oppose data centers being allowed to short-circuit environmental review and public input (House roll call vote #417) and Senator Joe Manchin’s permitting rollbacks bill (Senate roll call vote #394).

One important provision that did make it across the finish line was Representative Nanette Barragán’s Climate Justice Grants Act, which provided $3 billion in climate and environmental justice grants and was included in the Inflation Reduction Act. This investment will drive thousands of community-led clean energy and climate resiliency projects, such as community solar or tree plantings, in frontline and under-resourced communities that have faced disproportionate harm from fossil fuel and other pollution.

Democracy & Voting Rights

In 2022, members of the Tri-Caucus once again led the fight for equal voting rights, a progressive judiciary, and an equitable and accessible democracy. Representative Terri Sewell and others from both chambers continued to push for passage of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (House roll call vote #9), both crucial bills for protecting voting rights and defending our democracy. While ultimately it was blocked on the floor (Senate roll call #10), Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock made several powerful speeches advocating for it during Senate consideration.

Clean Energy

A central pillar of the IRA was a package of clean energy tax incentives that would invest billions to combat the climate crisis, reduce emissions, and create clean-energy jobs. One piece helping ensure these tax credits reinforce the Biden-Harris administration’s Justice 40 initiative to deliver at least 40% of the benefits from federal investments in communities facing environmental injustice was Representative Danny Davis’ Low-Income Housing Renewable Energy Credit Act, which increased clean energy tax credits for solar facilities placed in low-wealth communities. Thanks to Davis’ leadership, these critical clean energy incentives were included in the final bill and enacted into law. Another piece also in the IRA was Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s Tribal Energy Loan Improvement Act, which will make it easier for Indigenous communities in Nevada to launch critical energy development projects like solar and geothermal.

Clean Transportation

Representative Jahana Hayes has been a leading champion for clean school buses, drawing on her experience as a teacher to advocate for cleaner air for students, drivers, and community members alike. Her efforts to advance the IRA included successfully securing additional funding and tax incentives for ensuring healthier communities by reducing harmful pollution from diesel school buses and trucks that disproportionately impact communities and children of color.

Representative Yvette Clarke has been another champion for equitable clean transit, introducing the Electric Vehicles for Underserved Communities Act. This bill would require the Department of Energy to establish an Electric Vehicle Charging Equity Program to advance and expand the accessibility of that deployment. Investments like these were included in the Inflation Reduction Act’s electric vehicle incentives provisions to help ensure that all communities are able to participate in the electric vehicle future. 

Almost 40 percent of people in this country live within three miles of a port, and they are disproportionately communities of color. The Inflation Reduction Act includes an unprecedented $3 billion dedicated to reducing air pollution at ports with zero-emissions equipment and technology. Drawn from Representative Nanette Barragán’s Climate Smart Ports Act and Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester’s Climate Action Planning for Ports Act, these investments will accelerate the transition to zero-emissions equipment at ports across the country, provide fenceline air monitoring, and help port communities breathe easier.

Conservation & Equitable Outdoor Access

A key member of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and the House Natural Resources Committee, Representative Veronica Escobar continued her leadership by introducing the Castner Range National Monument Act, which would establish the Castner Range National Monument. This legislation is in support of community-led efforts for more than half a century to permanently protect the Castner Range near El Paso as a national monument, and Rep. Escobar has also called on the President to designate a national monument under the Antiquities Act. Not only will this conserve a beautiful ecosystem and a historically and culturally significant landscape, it would support the local economy while expanding equitable outdoor access to El Paso’s Latinx community.

Representative A. Donald McEachin’s Legacy

In November, the climate and environmental justice community lost one of its most dedicated advocates and stalwart champions: Representative A. Donald McEachin, who represented Virginia's 4th Congressional district.

LCV and VALCV mourn the immense loss of Representative McEachin, along with his family, colleagues in Congress, and the entire climate and environmental justice community -- to whom he was such a dedicated partner, mentor, and champion. 

A Leader From The Start

Representative McEachin was a tireless champion for climate, environmental justice, and an equitable democracy well before he was ever elected to represent Virginia’s 4th Congressional District in Congress. McEachin served the people of Virginia for more than 20 years, serving three terms in the House of Delegates and then two terms in the state Senate. He quickly earned a reputation for rooting his legislative priorities and advocacy in compassion, equity, and justice, championing legislation to close substandard landfills and to create the Offshore Wind Development Authority among many others.

A Champion Across Climate Committees & Caucuses

It was not long into his tenure in Congress that McEachin co-founded the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force (UCEJTF) along with Representatives Nanette Barragán and Pramila Jayapal. This initiative brought together the climate advocacy of champions from each of the Tri-Caucus groups to address the disproportionate impacts of climate pollution faced by communities of color head on.

Among many other accolades, McEachin was the only member to simultaneously serve on the three major environmental committees in the House: The Energy & Commerce Committee, the Natural Resources Committee, and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. He used these positions to push legislation that would help advance environmental justice, including bills to provide access to clean energy for everyone, equitable access to the outdoors, and to protect Native stewardship and sovereignty. 

McEachin was also quite active outside of the UCEJTF and his official committee assignments, serving as co-chair of the House Democratic Environmental Message Team, co-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus’ Transportation, Infrastructure, Environment and Energy Policy Council, and vice-chair of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC).

A Deep Partnership with LCV and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters (VALCV)

In addition to being a tireless legislator, Rep. McEachin was also an incredible partner to climate and environmental justice advocates in Virginia and across the country. From the very beginning of his entrance into public service, he cultivated a close relationship with VALCV and LCV while in the state legislature and in Congress, working collaboratively to protect communities in Virginia. From hosting town halls to gathering constituent input to touring coal ash sites to highlighting that the climate crisis disproportionately impacts communities of color, McEachin was always there.

A Lasting Legacy

Yet another of  Rep. McEachin’s many achievements in Congress was co-leading the historic Environmental Justice Summit at the U.S. Capitol, which brought hundreds of climate and environmental justice advocates from across the country together with lawmakers in 2019.

It seems fitting, then, that now-Ranking Member Grijalva announced that he would re-name the marquee Environmental Justice for All bill after his late friend and colleague: The A. Donald McEachin Environmental Justice for All Act, which he expects to reintroduce in March 2023. We can think of no better way for Congress to honor the incredible legacy of Representative McEachin than to pass this comprehensive, historic bill to advance environmental justice for generations to come.