Cutler Assails His Opponents' Environmental Records
PORTLAND, Maine - Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler wants to set the record straight on his environmental record - and those of his opponents. Cutler says Republican Gov. Paul LePage makes no pretenses about his environmental record, which environmental groups characterize as weak. But Cutler says Democratic candidate Mike Michaud claims to have a stronger record than history shows.
Eliot Cutler doesn't have an environmental record as a lawmaker: He's never served in political office. But Cutler says his work history provides ample evidence about where he stands on environmental issues. "The environment is not simply a political issue for me," he said. "It has been my life's labor."
Cutler spoke at a press conference at the University of Southern Maine Monday, standing between two photos of himself working with the late Sen. Edmund Muskie to draft the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts of the early 70's. Cutler went on to become associate director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Ned Muskie, son of the late senator, says Cutler oversaw the nation's principal natural resource and science agencies.
"He made tough decisions, established priorities, and strengthened the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Forest Service," Muskie said.
Cutler is also credited with winning president Jimmy Carter's support for the Superfund program, which cleans up toxic waste. Cutler eventually moved to the private sector to open what would become one of the largest environmental law firms in the nation.
Long-time environmentalist Sherry Huber, who has served on national boards such as the Nature Conservancy, says Cutler's record is in stark contrast to Democratic candidate Mike Michaud's.
"During his time in the Maine Legislature, he only compiled an average score of 55 from the Maine League of Conservation Voters," Huber said. "Said another way, Michaud voted the wrong way on nearly half the votes that Maine's environmentalists rated important during his two decades as a state legislator."
Huber says Michaud says he become a lawmaker to clean up the Penobscot River, but government reports show that work was already underway before he took office. She points out that Michaud subsequently supported Great Northern Paper's Big A Dam project in the mid 1980's - a plan that was criticized by environmentalists and eventually dropped.
Eliot Cutler says Michaud's record on environmental issues is, at best, uneven and mediocre. "The fact is that all of these environmental organizations in Maine have been blinded by the green-washing of Michaud's record," he said.
"These environmental organization" are the Sierra Club, Environment Maine, and Maine Conservation Voters - all of which have endorsed Michaud for governor. Michaud spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt says Cutler is lashing out after not winning those endorsements.
"He's running on a record from - God - how many years ago is that? Forty?" Reinholt says. "Yeah - he's running on a record of things he did 40 years ago, when Congressman Michaud has been an avid, avid champion for the environment throughout his time in Congress, and has actually done real things to help Maine's economy and Maine's environment."
Emily Figdor of Environment Maine says Michaud has cast hundreds of votes to protect air, water, and clean energy, and preventing rollbacks to key environmental laws, such as the Clean Water and Air Acts. She points out that the Maine Conservation Voters gives Michaud a lifetime score of 92. Conservation Voters Executive Director Maureen Drouin says the group's board did a thorough review of all the candidates' environmental records.
"And for Mike, bipartisanship isn't just a talking point," Figdor says. "He has real experience bringing people together to get things done on water pollution, investments in clean energy, and conserving Maine's natural heritage for future generations."
Cutler says some of these these environmental groups have essentially become affiliates of the Democratic party, despite the fact that the Sierra Club endorsed independent Angus King in his 2012 race for U.S. Senate and Maine Conservation Voters have recently endorsed Republican Sen. Susan Collins in her race against Democrat Shenna Bellows.
Cutler says it's allegiance to the Democratic party that also caused former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell to endorse Michaud on Monday.