Mo Udall may be the only Arizona politician, aside from the retrograde Bob Stump, who isn't scrambling to define himself as an environmentalist these days. What with Earth Day, an "environmental" president and unprecedented public support, almost every politician is going about in environmentalist drag.
Small wonder why. The New York Times/CBS News poll now finds 79 percent of the population (up from 45 percent in 1981) in agreement with the statement, "Protecting the environment is so important that requirements and standards cannot be too high, and continuing environmental improvements must be made regardless of cost."
But Mo Udall is the only member of Arizona's congressional delegation who can say that honestly, judging by voting records on environmental issues. Alas, Bob Stump, who scores a pristine "zero" with the Washington, D.C.-based League of Conservation Voters, is a more accurate reflection of how Arizona's delegation usually votes on environmental protection measures.
Senator John McCain, for instance, while he has pelted the public regularly with statements about his supposed fight to strengthen federal clean-air legislation, ignores the fact that his proposals do nothing to reduce dependence on Arizona's most intractable polluter, the automobile.
Last year McCain voted pro-environment on only two of ten issues facing the senate, and Senator Dennis DeConcini did only a bit better, voting pro-environment six out of ten times.
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By contrast, Udall voted pro-environment at least 80 percent of the time. Stump opposed every pro-environment bill that came before him, and Congressmen Jay Rhodes and Jon Kyl followed suit. The only exception to their near-zero record was their support for a measure requiring Texas water users to help pay for a Central Arizona Project-style water project in that state.
Congressman James Kolbe did slightly better, but still voted pro-environment less than half the time. When it comes to environmental issues, Kolbe's voting record is roughly parallel to the accuracy rate in columns written by his brother, Phoenix Gazette columnist John Kolbe. (Come to think of it, maybe it's no surprise Arizona's delegates have such difficulty matching their rhetoric with their voting records.)
In fact, league records show that Arizona in particular, and the Southwest in general, have lagged far behind the rest of the country in supporting environmental laws in the twenty years since the first Earth Day celebration. Even the Deep South and the redneck West score consistently better than does the Southwest.
The voting record of Arizona's delegation is so lopsided that only once in the past twenty years has it even come close to voting for the environment at least half the time. And while pro-environment voting among other states' delegations has climbed more or less steadily past the 50 percent mark in those years, Arizona has continued to elect representatives that vote pro-environment less than 30 percent of the time.