Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has filed a lawsuit in Maine’s Superior Court in response to Gov. Paul LePage’s recent executive order imposing a moratorium on new wind project permits, as well as creating what CLF calls a “secretive commission” to make recommendations on wind power development.
CLF’s lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, argues that the executive order violates the separation of powers clause of the Maine Constitution.
On Jan. 24, LePage issued Executive Order 2018-002, “An Order Establishing the Maine Wind Energy Advisory Commission.” According to LePage, the new 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.
“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,” the governor said. “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.”
CLF’s suit claims the imposed moratorium “will harm a variety of interests held by CLF members, including their economic, public health, aesthetic and professional interests.” The nonprofit organization, an environmental protection group serving New England, touts more than 3,000 members, including 400 Maine residents.
According to the suit, the governor’s executive order “harms CLF members’ constitutional interests in preserving the separation of powers between ‘3 distinct departments’ of government” (i.e., the legislative, executive and judicial departments). CLF says in the lawsuit that Maine’s constitution “provides no power to the governor or the executive branch to legislate.”
Sean Mahoney, CLF’s executive vice president and Maine director, says in a statement, “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. 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.”
He adds, “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.”
CLF’s full suit can be found here.