BRUNSWICK — Based on his proven record of effective leadership, Democrat Mike Michaud is the best choice for governor for anyone who cares about Maine’s environment and wants positive change in Augusta this fall. It is telling that Mike has been endorsed by Maine Conservation Voters, Sierra Club Maine and Environment Maine, each of which evaluated the candidates head to head.

Although Eliot Cutler works to cultivate an image of a pro-environment candidate – based largely on working as a staffer for Sen. Edmund Muskie decades ago and his private practice of environmental law since – he’s been missing in action on all of Maine’s major environmental policy issues.

For over 20 years I have worked on environmental and energy issues, first at the Natural Resources Council of Maine in the 1990s and currently for the nonprofit Clean Air Task Force, advocating on federal clean air and climate change issues. I also teach environmental law at Bowdoin College.

In all that time, I have not seen Eliot Cutler play a significant role on a single environmental issue of importance to Maine. In contrast, it is hard to think of a major environmental issue in Maine in which Mike Michaud has not been involved in a positive way.

In the decades that Eliot Cutler has been away, Mike Michaud worked to pass historic river cleanup standards, the state’s first comprehensive solid waste bill, smart growth land use planning, and policies to reduce toxins and protect Maine’s forests. To my knowledge, Eliot Cutler was not involved in any of these issues.

What I recall most from meetings with Mike at the State House was his willingness to listen carefully and sympathetically. He never waivered from his core belief that environmental excellence, good jobs and economic growth go hand in hand.

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Mike is no tree-hugger. He always made it clear that he was a millworker and that he viewed each policy decision from the perspective of working people. However, Mike has been successful because he knows how to bring different constituencies together to get things done. This is the painstaking work of governance, and it’s a leadership style that Maine so desperately needs after four years of Gov. LePage’s “my way or the highway” approach.

Mike’s conservation record in Congress also has been stellar, earning him a 92 percent lifetime score with the national League of Conservation Voters.

Mike’s positions on Maine’s most pressing environmental issues today are also carefully considered, including his strong support for protecting the quality of Maine’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters; his commitment to reducing our dependence on oil through renewable energy and energy-efficiency investments; his support for the Land for Maine’s Future program, and his support for strong action to reduce carbon pollution.

What has Eliot Cutler done for Maine’s environment since he worked on Sen. Muskie’s staff? He parlayed his insider knowledge of federal environmental law into a lucrative private practice representing developers, municipalities and others in environmental disputes over airports and highways.

Cutler cites his involvement in the siting of the Denver International Airport as a success story. But as one who has made the nearly 30-mile trek from the airport into the city of Denver, I can tell you that it stands as a monument to “sprawl” development. The Maine equivalent would be putting the Portland Jetport in New Gloucester.

Cutler’s self-published “book” describing what he would do as governor fails to mention a single proposal for protecting Maine’s environment and references our natural resources only as a marketing pitch.

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Those who have met Eliot Cutler are impressed by his intelligence and knowledge of environmental law, but not by his willingness to listen and consider alternative points of view. Knowledge of environmental law and representing clients is not the same thing as a personal, lifelong commitment and record of achievement protecting the environment.

In fact, Mike Michaud’s career on environmental issues falls squarely within the tradition of Sen. Muskie.

Both Muskie and Michaud hail from paper mill towns and both entered politics after witnessing the harmful effects of pollution from those mills. Both men spent their political careers proving that good jobs and a clean environment go together. Both employed an inclusive and effective negotiating style of bringing together opposing constituencies and stakeholders to achieve results that benefit Maine.

We desperately need that kind of leadership again on environmental issues in Augusta. For me, Mike Michaud is that leader.

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CORRECTION: This story was updated at 4:29 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2014, to correct the name of Environment Maine.


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