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Dionne E. Young/MEDILL

Outside Rep. Dold's campaign office in Lake Forrest cars speed past on Route 41

10th District Rep. Dold's environmental record may haunt campaign

by Dionne E. Young
Oct 31, 2012

Although U.S. Rep. Bob Dold (R- Kenilworth) claims he’s an environmental steward, critics say his voting record shows otherwise. With the race a close one, that may prove to be important.

Dold is seeking re-election for the 10th Congressional District, a North Shore area that includes several forest preserves, state parks and a large stretch of Lake Michigan’s shoreline. The area is well-known for ticket splitting – district voters routinely vote Democratic in presidential races but have sent Republicans to Congress for three decades -- but a redistricting in 2011 made the district more Democrat-friendly.

The hard-fought campaign is considered a tossup, with both candidates eager for any advantage. And on the environmental issue, Schneider is far in front.

Based on the votes he cast during his freshman term in Congress – which include voting against expansion of the Clean Water Act and in favor of weakening the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory powers -- Dold received a dismal score of 34 percent from the League of Conservation Voters and an “F” from the Sierra Club.

“Dold votes more with his caucus than his district,” said Barbara Klipp, Political Chair for the Sierra Club Woods Wetland Group. The Grayslake-based group supports the use and protection of natural resources in the Lake County area.

On his website, Dold says “I know firsthand the critical importance of strong conservation programs and bedrock environmental programs that protect our nation’s vast natural lands and resources.” He also describes his years as an Eagle Scout as being the foundation for his environmental awareness.

The environmental community isn’t convinced. According to the national Sierra Club’s analysis of over 200 of his votes, Dold voted with the environment just 15% of the time.

Though his overall record may not line up with the Sierra Club’s standards, Dold has worked to protect water: In Jan. 2011 he introduced his first bill to Congress: H.R. 425, the “Great Lakes Water Protection Act” would have amended the Clean Water Act to ensure that private treatment plants don’t send wastewater into the Great Lakes. The bill remains stuck in committee.

Dold’s opponent Brad Schneider, who has received key endorsements by The Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters, has been pounding away at Republican Dold’s environmental record.

The current Republican-led Congress “has voted over 300 times against the environment. They argue that we need to make a choice between protecting the environment and providing a legacy to our children and creating jobs,” Schneider said at a recent debate with Dold. Schneider said he will focus on alternative energy and conservation and that will help to create jobs.

“Brad Schneider is the kind of strong environmental advocate we need in congress and he will put the people of 10th District first,” said Jeff Gohringer, national press secretary of the League of Conservation Voters. The league, based in Washington, is a non-profit group that seeks to make environmentalism a national priority.

The league’s 34 percent rating for Dold is partly due to the Congressman’s votes to weaken the EPA. His vote against granting the EPA more control over the Great Lakes has caused the group to question his commitment to the environmental needs of the area – and made Dold vulnerable to Schneider’s repeated assertion that Dold wants to drill in Lake Michigan.

However, Dold did help to defeat a bill that would have significantly cut the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which helps preserve protected lands and funds parks. In addition, the incumbent did draw the line at drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“…the refuge’s coastal plain is a national treasure, worthy of passing on to future generations of Americans,” Dold said in a February op-ed in the Politico website. Opening up the ANWR to drilling would be mistake, he said. Due to widespread opposition to H.R. 3302: Restore America Act of 2011 the bill never made it to the House floor for a vote.

Dold has one backer on the environmental front: ConservAmerica, an organization of Republicans that support conservation efforts, has endorsed Dold, saying he "routinely rises above the partisan divisiveness.” 

“In his first term, Congressman Dold distinguished himself as a strong champion of the environment who is willing to break ranks if need be to cast environmentally responsible votes,” ConservAmerican said in a statement.

Neither campaign was available for comment.

In the 10th District, the environmental issue could loom large in the upcoming election. Lake County “is environmentally progressive and it polls extremely high,” noted the Sierra’s Club Klipp.