PORTLAND, Maine (CN) - A week after Maine Governor Paul LePage halted permits for new wind-turbine projects, environmentalists accused the Republican in court of pulling an end run on the Legislature.
Represented by in-house counsel, the Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation brought its Jan. 30 complaint in Cumberland Superior Court.
LePage complained about harm to Maine’s tourism industry in issuing the Jan. 24 moratorium on wind turbines, but the foundation says his executive order violated the Maine Constitution.
“Under the separation of powers ..., the proper avenue for defendant to amend the legislative framework for permitting of wind energy projects in Maines is to introduce a bill,” the 13-page complaint states.
Nearly 14 percent of Maine’s total electricity was powered through wind in 2016, according to U.S. Department of Energy reports.
The group behind Tuesday’s lawsuit says LePage’s moratorium will harm the “economic, public health, aesthetic and professional interests” of its members.
“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,” Sean Mahoney, executive vice president of the foundation, said in a statement. "Not only is it illegal, but it is also bad for Maine’s economy where businesses need to have certainty in order to invest.”
LePage’s executive order last week also established the Maine Wind Energy Advisory Commission to study wind turbines' affect on tourism, property values, wildlife, and costs.
“Tourism, especially returning visitors, is a major driver for the Maine economy,” LePage said in a statement. “We cannot afford to damage our natural assets in ways that would deter visitors from returning to Maine.”
The executive order says the commission's meetings will not be "public proceedings." Any discussion and documents from the group's meetings will be exempt from Maine's Freedom of Access Act.
Tuesday’s complaint by the foundation notes that the executive order sets no date for the commission to conclude its studies and report its findings.
The group sued one day after Maine Attorney General Janet Mills announced the governor's executive order doesn't change state law on wind permitting. A constant opponent of LePage during his two terms in office, Mills will vie for the Democratic Party’s nomination in the 2018 gubernatorial race.
LePage, who is statutorily barred from running for a third term, has sued Mills several times over the years: both for refusing to represent him in federal cases and for joining a challenge against the Trump administration over its termination of the federal program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
The outspoken governor has a reputation for peppering his official statements with inflammatory remarks. In addition to lamenting what he called the scourge of drug dealers, coming into Maine to impregnate “young white girl[s],” LePage once compared IRS activities to the Holocaust and remarked about the “little beards” some women grow when exposed to chemicals.
Profanity is a common theme in the governor’s statements, such as when he told critics to “kiss my butt,” or accused a state senator of “giv[ing] it to the people without providing Vaseline.”
Representatives for LePage did not respond to a request for comment.
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