Sen. Troy Jackson, a Democratic candidate for Congress, tried to get special legislation passed to help one of his constituents subvert environmental regulations, a non-partisan investigative report revealed Wednesday.
The bill, which was allowed into the current legislative session by the Democrat-controlled Legislative Council, would have undone part of a legal agreement between the constituent and the state designed to protect an Aroostook County lake, according to Pine Tree Watchdog, an investigative reporting outlet run by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting.
The Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee killed the bill on April 4, but reporters Naomi Schalit and John Christie raises questions about Jackson’s constitutionally dubious legislation and Democratic leaders’ tolerance of special favors.
“A constituent of mine felt like they didn’t get a fair deal from a state agency,” said Jackson. “I thought he had merit.”
In 2011, Pelletier was accused by the state Department of Environmental Protection of violations of the Shoreland Zoning Law and the Natural Resources Protection Act after he had a contractor clear 200 feet of vegetated lake frontage under a permit that allowed him only to stabilize the eroding shoreline.
The clearing by Pelletier created unobstructed lake views from the large home he built on the property.
Facing $100 a day in fines, Pelletier negotiated an out-of court agreement with the state that required him to replant the shoreline area with 71 trees; attend a workshop on shoreline stabilization methods; and pay only a $2,500 fine. He signed the agreement on Feb. 11, 2014; representatives from the DEP and the attorney general’s office signed it in late February and early March.
But after he signed it and planted 30 of the trees, Pelletier said he began to “regret” signing the agreement.
“I do not like the fact that I can no longer mow” the shoreline, he said.
Jackson said he at first contacted the DEP to try to resolve Pelletier’s complaints. But by the time they got back to him, Pelletier had signed the consent agreement. So, at Pelletier’s request, he stepped in.
On March 11 Jackson placed a bill, “An Act to Correct an Error in the Permitting Process by the Department of Environmental Protection,” before the members of the Legislative Council, the governing body of the legislature that includes leadership of both parties, asking for their permission to introduce the bill even though it came after the normal legislative deadline. Jackson is a member of the council.
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