AUGUSTA – Gov. Paul LePage on Friday nominated Patricia Aho, an attorney and former lobbyist, to lead the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Aho first served as deputy commissioner in the DEP before taking over as acting commissioner in June, when Jim Brooks stepped down to take another job. Brooks had been acting commissioner since April, when Darryl Brown resigned because the attorney general deemed him ineligible to serve under Maine law.

Aho is a native of Boothbay Harbor who now lives in Newcastle. She has a law degree from Western New England College in Springfield, Mass., and an undergraduate degree from Nasson College, a now-defunct institution in Springvale.

“Patti has been an important leader in making the DEP a strong and more effective customer-friendly agency,” LePage said in a prepared statement. “We can ensure sustainable economic development in Maine through a balanced stewardship of the state’s natural resources and she has already started to make that happen in her role as acting commissioner.”

As a lobbyist in 2010, Aho represented several clients before the Legislature, including auto manufacturers, the American Chemistry Council, the American Petroleum Institute, Casella Waste Systems, Dead River Co., Poland Spring and Verso Paper, according to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

Aho will have a confirmation hearing Sept. 26 before the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee. The next day, her nomination will be considered by the state Senate when it convenes for a special session.

Rep. Bob Duchesne, D-Hudson, a member of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, said he has had a good working relationship with Aho, during her time as a lobbyist and as acting commissioner.

“I think she’ll do a good job,” he said. “I think she has been.”

Aho may get some tough questions from the committee about a recent executive order signed by LePage that gives him the power to approve rules that implement legislation, Duchesne said.

“The governor’s goals don’t trump legislation signed into law,” he said.

Brown stepped down from the commissioner’s job in April after a letter from Attorney General William Schneider said it appeared he was ineligible to serve because of a conflict of interest.

State law says that anyone who has received, in the two previous years, at least 10 percent of his income from clients who get or apply for permits or licenses under the federal Clean Water Act may not be commissioner of DEP. When he was appointed, Brown owned Main-Land Development Consultants, an environmental consulting firm based in Livermore Falls.

According to the Office of the State Controller, the annual salary of the DEP commissioner can range from $70,616 to $102,689. To date, LePage has started 13 of his 15 Cabinet appointees at the maximum.

LePage also has nominated the acting insurance superintendent to become the permanent head of Maine’s Bureau of Insurance.

Eric Cioppa was named acting superintendent in the spring after the resignation of Mila Koffman. The bureau regulates the insurance industry.

LePage said the Senate is expected to vote on Cioppa’s nomination during the special session on Sept. 27. Cioppa has worked for the bureau since 1988.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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