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January 31, 2018

Conservation Law Foundation sues LePage over wind power moratorium

Courtesy / Matthew Gagnon, Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy / Matthew Gagnon, Wikimedia Commons
A lawsuit filed Tuesday in Maine's Superior Court by the Conservation Law Foundation seeks to block Gov. Paul LePage’s recent executive order imposing a moratorium on new wind project permits and creating a special commission to make recommendations on wind power development.

The Conservation Law Foundation filed a lawsuit in Maine's Superior Court Tuesday seeking to block Gov. Paul LePage's recent executive order imposing a moratorium on new wind project permits and creating a special commission to make recommendations on wind power development.

CLF's lawsuit argues that LePage's executive order violates the separation of powers clause of the Maine constitution.

"This executive order is a naked political attempt to impose the governor's own anti-renewable energy philosophy on the people and businesses of Maine," CLF Executive Vice President and Maine Director Sean Mahoney said in a statement. "It is a clear violation of a fundamental premise of government established by the Maine constitution — the separation of powers between our three branches. Not only is it illegal, but it is also bad for Maine's economy where businesses need to have certainty in order to invest. As with other decisions of this governor concerning energy efficiency and solar power development, Mainers across the state will suffer from this outrageous effort to hamstring our economic future, and CLF will do everything in our power stop it."

Lawsuit triggered by Jan. 24 executive order

LePage's executive order on Jan. 24 put the brakes on the state's permitting of new onshore wind projects and established the Maine Wind Energy Advisory Commission, which is charged with developing and proposing regulatory policies guiding future deployment and operation of wind turbines in Western Maine.

"I am placing a moratorium on issuing any new permits related to wind turbines until this commission studies the economic impact that such development would have on tourism in Maine," LePage said in a statement announcing his executive order. "Tourism, especially returning visitors, is a major driver for the Maine economy. We cannot afford to damage our natural assets in ways that would deter visitors from returning to Maine."

Membership of the commission will include representatives from state agencies and other entities that have substantial responsibilities and/or interests in the siting of wind turbines in Western Maine, including members of the Legislature, municipal officers, advocacy organizations and businesses.

As part of its charge, the commission will monitor compliance with federal and state environmental law, consider the economic impact of previously sited wind turbines in Maine and develop and propose policies regulating the future deployment and operation of wind turbines in Western Maine.

CLF, a Boston-based nonprofit with an office in Portland, has more than 3,000 members, 400 of them living in Maine. Its mission is "the conservation and wise management and development of Maine and New England's natural resources."

Its lawsuit asks the court to issue a declaratory judgment voiding LePage's executive order on the grounds that it violates the separation of powers established by Maine's constitution.

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Conservation Law Foundation's lawsuit against Gov. Paul LePage

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