CLF is once again calling for increased transparency from the LePage Administration, this time with regard to whether or not Darryl Brown, who was confirmed by the Senate last month as Governor LePage’s appointment to be commissioner of Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), is eligible to stay in his current position according to State and federal law.
Brown is the founder and remains the sole shareholder of an engineering and land-use planning firm that assists developers and industry obtain permits from the DEP and EPA. At his confirmation hearing in January, Brown said that between 25 and 35 percent of his firm’s work involved DEP permitting. Under state law, (38 MRSA $ 341-A(3)(B)), anyone who has received at least 10 percent of their income in the last two years directly or indirectly from projects permitted under the Clean Water Act are not eligible to serve as DEP commissioner.
The question of Mr. Brown’s eligibility to serve as Commissioner was first raised by former CLF staff attorney Steve Hinchman on behalf of the Androscoggin River Alliance in a February 7 petition filed with the EPA under a CWA provision that is similar, although not as broad, as the Maine statute. Importantly though, both provisions use the same 10 percent threshold test. EPA has requested that Mr. Brown provide information by April 15 to determine whether that threshold has been crossed. Maine’s Attorney General and the Governor’s office have refused to say whether they have even met to discuss the situation, never mind how they intend to resolve it. As an independent Constitutional officer, CLF has called upon the Attorney General’s office to provide a formal opinion as to how the law applies to Commissioner Brown and whether he has crossed the 10 percent threshold in the last two years, a call formally echoed by the House Democrats on April 5.
CLF will continue to push for a fair and speedy resolution of the issue, whatever that resolution might be. CLF is not pushing this issue in order to disqualify Commissioner Brown nor to make a statement as to his performance as Commissioner. Rather, we’re pushing to make sure that the law is interpreted and applied correctly.
It is possible that even though 25-35 percent of Brown’s was related to DEP permitting work but only 10 percent of his work was related to Clean Water Act permits. But there will be no confidence in such a conclusion until a transparent and thorough analysis is conducted by the lawyers for all of Maine’s people, the Attorney General.