AUGUSTA — An environmental group has asked the federal government to investigate whether Gov. Paul LePage violated federal law when he appointed Darryl Brown to lead the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The Androscoggin River Alliance alleges that the appointment violates a provision of the federal Clean Water Act that prohibits people from directing such an agency if they have received more than 10 percent of their annual income over the previous two years from water pollution permit holders.

Brown owns Main-Land Development Consultants, an engineering and land-planning firm that helps developers get permits from state and local governments.

He told legislators at a hearing two weeks ago that his firm usually obtains eight permits a year from Maine’s DEP.

One of the firm’s current clients, Black Bear Entertainment, will be seeking state permits to build a casino in Oxford.

Such a “direct and substantial” conflict of interest is generally illegal under the Clean Water Act, said Neil Ward, program director for the Androscoggin River Alliance, a citizens group based in Lewiston.

Steve Hinchman, an attorney for the group, said the portion of Brown’s income attributed to water pollution permits appears to exceed the 10 percent threshold in the federal statute.

Brown has told lawmakers that he plans to sell his company, and that in the meantime he will recuse himself from any decisions that might affect his company or its clients.

Brown was sworn into office on Feb. 1. He has resigned as president and has established a governing board to run the firm. The board last week selected Robert Berry, an engineer and project manager for the firm, to serve as president.

LePage’s spokesman Dan Demeritt said Monday that Brown has gone to great lengths to shield himself from conflict of interest.

He noted that the Androscoggin River Alliance did not attend Brown’s confirmation hearing.

“The fact that they are raising these concerns just a week after Commissioner Brown has taken office should make it clear to everyone that this is a stunt,” he said.

 

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 699-6261 or at: [email protected]