Wind industry group sues LePage over new turbine moratorium

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Turbines at the Pisgah Mountain wind project in Clifton.
The Maine Renewable Energy Association, an Augusta group representing wind and other renewable energy producers, filed a lawsuit in Kennebec County Superior Court.
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AUGUSTA, Maine — A second group has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Paul LePage in connection with a new moratorium on new permits for wind energy projects across much of Maine, calling his January executive order an “unconstitutional executive overreach.”

The Republican governor’s order halted new wind permits in Maine except for part of Aroostook County until a new LePage commission issues a report about turbines’ impact on the environment, property values and tourism. Democrats and environmentalists decried the move.

On Friday, the Maine Renewable Energy Association, an Augusta group representing wind and other renewable energy producers, sued LePage in Kennebec County Superior Court. It followed a January suit in a state court from the Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation.

Both groups argue that the order should be thrown out for violating constitutional separation-of-power provisions. State law provides for an expedited wind permitting process in much of Aroostook, Washington, Penobscot and Somerset counties and other isolated areas.

If LePage sticks to his executive order, it would effectively nullify that process. Rep. Joel Stetkis, R-Canaan, has submitted a bill on the governor’s behalf that would conform the law to the order and shrink the expedited permitting zone to include only eastern Aroostook County.

In its lawsuit, the Maine Renewable Energy Association argues that the new bill shows that LePage knew “he needs legislative action” to alter permitting, but “he nonetheless disregarded the Maine Constitution” and issued an executive order that he couldn’t issue by law.

A LePage spokeswoman said the office can’t comment on pending litigation. The governor has called wind a “boutique energy source,” even though Maine’s wind capacity has grown by more than five times since he became governor in 2011, according to federal data.

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