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February 21, 2018

Renewable energy group sues over wind-permit moratorium

Courtesy / Matthew Gagnon, Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy / Matthew Gagnon, Wikimedia Commons
A lawsuit filed in Kennebec County Superior Court by the Maine Renewable Energy Association 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. It's the second lawsuit prompted by LePage's moratorium. Last month the Conservation Law Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging the moratorium.

The Maine Renewable Energy Association has filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Paul LePage's controversial moratorium on new wind-turbine permits.

In an 11-page complaint before the Kennebec County Superior Court, the group asks the court to "declare the permit ban unconstitutional and therefore void, because it violates the separation of powers set forth in the Constitution of the State of Maine."

The suit relates to LePage's Jan. 24 order establishing the Maine Wind Energy Advisory Commission to study the economic impact of potential wind turbines in most of state — "the scenic vistas and pristine waters of Western Maine, our coast and coastal islands, and are significant avian migratory pathways — and that no permits related to turbines be issued in those areas. The commission is to be the state's official review and advisory body for assessing the economic impact of future wind turbines.

The Maine Renewable Energy Association, based in Augusta, is taking legal counsel in the case from the Portland law firm of Bernstein Shur.

"We look forward to the court's review of our complaint, and hope that in the meantime state agencies will continue meeting with applicants, reviewing project data, and assessing wind development applications as they are filed," Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, said in a statement emailed to Mainebiz.

He added: "While the governor may not support wind power, no executive authority exists for him to arbitrarily decide which industries and their permit applications may be afforded a comprehensive regulatory review."

MREA is a nonprofit association of renewable energy producers, suppliers of goods and services to those producers, and other supporters of those industries. Its power producer members sustainably manufacture electricity from hydro, biomass, wind, tidal and waste-to-energy sources. Its challenge comes a month after the Conservation Law Foundation filed a lawsuit in Maine's Superior Court seeking to block the moratorium.

LePage's spokeswoman told the Portland Press Herald that she cannot comment on pending legislation.

In a Jan. 24 statement, LePage said "Current law is too ambitious and overly permissive in areas of the state where we must protect our scenic vistas. While I believe that some expedited permitting for wind is appropriate, my bill will implement constraints on where expedited development can occur to protect our tourism-based economy."

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