Traverse City Record-Eagle

Election 2010

October 24, 2010

Op-Ed: Environment flies under radar

They vow to be good stewards of Michigan's natural resources and were endorsed in their gubernatorial primaries by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters — an increasingly active scorekeeper on such matters.

But Republican businessman Rick Snyder and Democratic Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero have been relatively mum — nor pressed by the media — on these issues during the general election campaign, which has understandably focused primarily on jobs and Michigan's distressed economy.

As I have noted previously, Bernero and Snyder were good on environmental issues during the primary at a forum at Central Michigan University sponsored in part by the Michigan LCV.

Subsequently, in chats with them as they campaigned Up North, I found them well-informed — indeed strong — on Great Lakes issues, including supporting efforts against invasive species, particularly Asian carp.

But environmental issues were not raised in the only Bernero-Snyder debate — even by the candidates, who could have worked them in while responding to moderators' questions.

Nor have these issues surfaced in their ads, nor do they get prominent attention in their stump speeches that focus on "reinventing" (Snyder) or "shaking up" (Bernero) state government.

Rather than endorse either Bernero or Snyder, Michigan LCV Executive Director Lisa Wozniak said Friday the league decided to "play a watchdog role…tracking candidates day to day" with the hope that voters and reporters will press the candidates. There aren't many days left.

In letters to each, it said that in the primary "we endorsed you … due to your focus on the environment and green job innovation in Michigan. We approach you again now" to ask questions on issues such as a moratorium on coal plants, location of wind power turbines, sulfide mining, funding of state parks, and the budget of the Michigan Department of National Resources and Environment (MDNRE).

The hottest environmental issue last week was buzz, of uncertain origin, that Snyder as governor might tap Russ Harding, former director of the Department of Environmental Quality under Gov. John Engler and now with the Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, to be the DNRE director in a Snyder administration.

For a span last week on the online Enviro-Mich site hosted by the Great Lakes Information Network (GLIN) "Rumor of Russ Harding in Snyder Administration" was a dominant subject line among scores of people who chimed in to the site. Republicans who have talked to Snyder discounted it.

Wozniak said, "I would be very surprised," if that happened.

Meanwhile, she said a League of Conservation Voters team would be in northern Michigan this week on behalf of reelection of state Rep. Dan Scripps, D-Leland, and the quest of state Rep. Gary McDowell, D-Rudyard, for the 1st District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee.

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