Methodology

Since 1970, the National Environmental Scorecard has been providing objective, factual information about the most important environmental legislation considered and the corresponding voting records of all members of Congress. See the four sections below for more information about the Scorecard’s methodology.

 

How We Decide Which Votes To Score

The Scorecard represents the consensus of experts from more than 20 respected environmental, environmental justice, and conservation organizations who select the key votes on which members of Congress should be scored. LCV scores votes on the most important issues of the year, including clean air and water, energy, climate change, environmental justice, public health, public lands and wildlife conservation, democracy, worker protection, and spending for environmental programs. We would like to thank the dedicated experts who are an integral part of the selection of votes for the Scorecard, including the Board of Directors, the Issues & Accountability Committee, and the Scorecard Advisory Committee.

 

How Scores Are Calculated

Annual scores are based on a scale of 0 to 100 and calculated by dividing the number of pro-environment votes cast by the total number of votes scored except for excused absences.  Lifetime scores are calculated in the same manner so that each vote counts equally. Note that lifetime scores are not the average of annual scores, which would assign different weights to votes since the total number of votes scored varies from year to year.

A pro-environment vote is delineated by a “check” symbol; an anti-environmental vote is shown as an “x”; and a missed vote or voting “present” is displayed as a “?”, both of which are counted as an anti-environmental vote.  Starting in the 2019 Scorecard, votes missed by members of Congress due to family and medical leave or disasters are being treated as excused absences, displayed as an “E”, and will not count against a member’s score. Votes a given member was ineligible to take, for example after resigning, before being sworn in, or for Delegates, votes not in the Committee of the Whole, are displayed with an “i”.  The not applicable “N/A” category includes the Speaker of the House who votes only at his or her discretion and members of Congress who were not assigned a score due to illness or death.

In extreme cases to show the importance of an environmental issue, a single vote has been scored twice. These votes will display as two separate lines in the online Scorecard with the second vote entry being delineated as (2x Score).

Additionally, in some years where votes did not take place on a high priority issue, whether or not a member of Congress cosponsored a bill has been scored. In such an instance, there is no corresponding roll call vote cited. In a few cases over the years signing onto a letter or signing onto a “discharge petition” — a measure that automatically allows a floor vote on an underlying bill if signed by at least 218 House lawmakers — has been scored.

Since the 2019 Scorecard, we will display the votes of the five House Delegates representing American Samoa, District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands and the Resident Commissioner representing Puerto Rico. At the start of the 116th Congress, Democrats, as they have every time they have been in the majority since 1993, reinstated voting on the floor by these members when the House meets in the Committee of the Whole. Although the more than 4 million residents of the federal district and these territories lack full voting representation in Congress, we made this change as part of our organizational focus on racial justice and equity and those communities of color bearing the brunt of climate change’s effects. We hope that the presence in the Scorecard of these representatives will remind readers of their need for greater representation and rights in our democracy.

 

Issue Categories

Each vote scored has been assigned to one or more issue categories. There are 12 total categories, which are described below:

Air – Votes on air pollution, including votes related to the Clean Air Act.

Clean Energy – Votes on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Climate Change – Votes directly related to global warming pollution and increasing climate resilience for communities and wildlife. 
            
Dirty Energy – Votes on polluting energy sources, including conventional fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal; non-conventional fossil fuels such as tar sands; and harmful energy subsidies for nuclear energy and fossil fuels.

Drilling – Votes on drilling onshore and in the waters off the nation’s coasts.

Lands/Forests – Votes addressing both private and public lands and forests, including wilderness designations, federal land management agencies, logging, mining, and grazing.

Oceans – Votes on ocean conservation issues, including fisheries management.

Other – A broad catch-all category that includes votes on overhauling the regulatory process, sweeping funding cuts, the National Environmental Policy Act, federal appointments and nominations, campaign finance reform, trade, family planning, and eminent domain/takings, among other issues.

Toxics/Public Right to Know – Votes on the use of and exposure to toxic chemicals (including pesticides), the public’s right to know if they are at risk, and Superfund sites.

Transportation – Votes on transportation and vehicle fuels policy, including fuel efficiency standards, biking and walking infrastructure, transit, and rail.

Water – Votes on water quality and quantity issues and water pollution, including votes related to the Clean Water Act.

Wildlife – Votes on fish (freshwater and saltwater) and wildlife issues, including the Endangered Species Act.



Discrepancies Between the Printed and Online Scorecards

Close observers will notice slight discrepancies between some of the printed Scorecards (the complete set is located in the Scorecard Archives page) and the online Scorecard. This is primarily due to a couple of factors.

Today, missed votes count the same as an anti-environmental vote. However, prior to 1987, missed votes were not counted with equal weight to anti-environmental votes. Certain missed votes were excused and did not negatively affect a member of Congress’s score. For unexcused absences, members’ annual scores were calculated using only votes for which they cast a vote and then docked between one and three points for each unexcused missed vote.

In some of the early years, a single Scorecard was issued for a two-year period and thus a single score was calculated for a two year period. However, in the online Scorecard all annual scores are calculated solely on a yearly basis.

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