AUGUSTA – Democratic lawmakers say they want Gov. Paul LePage to ask Attorney General William Schneider to write an official opinion on whether the new commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection is eligible to serve under Maine law.

If LePage doesn’t, they say, they might ask for it themselves.

Environmental lawyers have raised questions about whether DEP Commissioner Darryl Brown, who owns an engineering and land-use planning firm, earned more than 10 percent of his income in the past two years from projects permitted under the federal Clean Water Act.

If he did, he would be serving in violation of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations and Maine law.

Brown’s company, Main-Land Development Consultants, helps developers get permits from the DEP. But it’s unclear how much of his earnings came from work on permits issued through the Clean Water Act. He has assured Republican lawmakers that he is in compliance with the law.

The EPA is investigating the matter, but Schneider’s office has not issued a written opinion.

“I hope there’s not a conflict for Commissioner Brown with this statute,” said House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono. “We hope the governor’s office will take the step of asking the attorney general to check the standard against the state statute. We are considering asking ourselves if (the administration) doesn’t come forward. But we don’t want this to be a partisan issue.”

Cain said it would be a priority to settle the issue, to ensure that the DEP’s work could continue undisrupted.

“We want to make sure that, one way or another, this information comes forward, because we don’t want to see the work of the commissioner that’s being done right now called into question, because that will just slow things down for businesses and individuals across the state,” she said.

Representatives from the Attorney General’s Office and the governor’s office declined to say Friday whether there had been a briefing on the issue, which came to light in early February, days after Brown was confirmed and sworn into office.

LePage’s office also declined to say whether the administration has asked, or plans to ask, Schneider for a written opinion.

Only members of the governor’s office, state agencies or lawmakers can request official opinions from the attorney general, who is responsible for enforcing Maine laws.

Maine’s attorney general is elected by lawmakers. Schneider was elected in December.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]