LD 1647 will create high hurdles for citizens and citizen groups who wish to appeal staff decisions of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) to their respective citizen boards. The bill narrows the range of members of the public who are eligible to appeal and will require LURC and the BEP to conduct lengthy and technical legal investigations into whether citizens and citizen groups meet legalistic standing tests, slowing down the permitting process.
In many cases, citizens and citizen groups will have to hire lawyers to represent them, just to get the opportunity to participate in the process. The bill will result in shutting many citizens and citizen groups out of Maine’s decision-making process, despite the public interest in the outcome. If citizens and citizens groups have no ability to appeal, their voices in the permitting process will be easily ignored or never even heard.
This bill may result in many more people asking the BEP or LURC to skip the staff decisions and go directly to the BEP and LURC decision because people will know that they will not likely have the opportunity to appeal a staff decision. While skipping this step may seem faster and simpler, in fact it generally is a longer and more complicated process that will result in slowing down and not speeding up the permitting process. This bill will ease the way for well-financed parties and their lawyers to use procedural challenges to prevent citizens, stakeholders and even towns from raising substantive concerns about their project and try to disqualify them from being able to even have an opportunity to be heard by the board or commission.
The proponents, primarily one Portland law firm, have yet to demonstrate any real problem that needs fixing. BEP and LURC, together with guidance and advice from the Attorney General’s office, already act to keep out frivolous appeals.
The Minority ‘Ought to Pass as Amended’ Report for LD 1647 has passed in both the Senate and the House.