Appealing a Department Licensing Decision
Date: March 2012 Contact: (207) 287-2811
There are two methods available to an aggrieved person seeking to appeal a licensing decision made by the Department of Environmental Protection’s ("DEP") Commissioner: (1) in an administrative process before the Board of Environmental Protection ("Board"); or (2) in a judicial process before Maine’s Superior Court. An aggrieved person seeking review of a licensing decision over which the Board had original jurisdiction may seek judicial review in Maine's Superior Court.
A judicial appeal of final action by the Commissioner or the Board regarding an application for an expedited wind energy development (35-A M.R.S.A. § 3451(4)) or a general permit for an offshore wind energy demonstration project (38 M.R.S.A. § 480-HH(1)) or a general permit for a tidal energy demonstration project (38 M.R.S.A. § 636-A) must be taken to the Supreme Judicial Court sitting as the Law Court.
This Information Sheet, in conjunction with a review of the statutory and regulatory provisions referred to herein, can help a person to understand his or her rights and obligations in filing an administrative or judicial appeal.
I. Administrative Appeals to the Board
DEP’s General Laws, 38 M.R.S.A. § 341-D(4), and its Rules Concerning the Processing of Applications and Other Administrative Matters (Chapter 2), 06-096 CMR 2.24 (April 1, 2003).
The laws concerning the DEP’s Organization and Powers, 38 M.R.S.A. §§ 341-D(4) & 346, the Maine Administrative Procedure Act, 5 M.R.S.A. § 11001, and the DEP’s Rules Concerning the Processing of Applications and Other Administrative Matters ("Chapter 2"), 06-096 CMR 2 (April 1, 2003).
How Long You have to Submit an Appeal to the Board
The Board must receive a written appeal within 30 days of the date on which the Commissioner's decision was filed with the Board. Appeals filed after 30 calendar days of the date on which the Commissioner's decision was filed with the Board will be rejected.
How to Submit an Appeal to the Board
Signed original appeal documents must be sent to: Chair, Board of Environmental Protection, c/o Department of Environmental Protection, 17 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0017; faxes are acceptable for purposes of meeting the deadline when followed by the Board's receipt of mailed original documents within five (5) working days. Receipt on a particular day must be by 5:00 PM at DEP's offices in Augusta; materials received after 5:00 PM are not considered received until the following day. The person appealing a licensing decision must also send the DEP's Commissioner a copy of the appeal documents and if the person appealing is not the applicant in the license proceeding at issue the applicant must also be sent a copy of the appeal documents. All of the information listed in the next section must be submitted at the time the appeal is filed. Only the extraordinary circumstances described at the end of that section will justify evidence not in the DEP's record at the time of decision being added to the record for consideration by the Board as part of an appeal.
What your Appeal Paperwork Must Contain
Appeal materials must contain the following information at the time submitted:
- Aggrieved Status. The appeal must explain how the person filing the appeal has standing to maintain an appeal. This requires an explanation of how the person filing the appeal may suffer a particularized injury as a result of the Commissioner’s decision.
- The findings, conclusions or conditions objected to or believed to be in error. Specific references and facts regarding the appellant’s issues with the decision must be provided in the notice of appeal.
- The basis of the objections or challenge. If possible, specific regulations, statutes or other facts should be referenced. This may include citing omissions of relevant requirements, and errors believed to have been made in interpretations, conclusions, and relevant requirements.
- The remedy sought. This can range from reversal of the Commissioner's decision on the license or permit to changes in specific permit conditions.
- All the matters to be contested. The Board will limit its consideration to those arguments specifically raised in the written notice of appeal.
- Request for hearing. The Board will hear presentations on appeals at its regularly scheduled meetings, unless a public hearing on the appeal is requested and granted. A request for public hearing on an appeal must be filed as part of the notice of appeal.
- New or additional evidence to be offered. The Board may allow new or additional evidence, referred to as supplemental evidence, to be considered by the Board in an appeal only when the evidence is relevant and material and that the person seeking to add information to the record can show due diligence in bringing the evidence to the DEP’s attention at the earliest possible time in the licensing process or that the evidence itself is newly discovered and could not have been presented earlier in the process. Specific requirements for additional evidence are found in Chapter 2.
Other Considerations in Appealing a Decision to the Board
- Be familiar with all relevant material in the DEP record. A license application file is public information, subject to any applicable statutory exceptions, made easily accessible by DEP. Upon request, the DEP will make the material available during normal working hours, provide space to review the file, and provide opportunity for photocopying materials. There is a charge for copies or copying services.
- Be familiar with the regulations and laws under which the application was processed, and the procedural rules governing your appeal. DEP staff will provide this information on request and answer questions regarding applicable requirements.
- The filing of an appeal does not operate as a stay to any decision. If a license has been granted and it has been appealed the license normally remains in effect pending the processing of the appeal. A license holder may proceed with a project pending the outcome of an appeal but the license holder runs the risk of the decision being reversed or modified as a result of the appeal.
What to Expect Once You File a Timely Appeal with the Board
The Board will formally acknowledge receipt of an appeal, including the name of the DEP project manager assigned to the specific appeal. The notice of appeal, any materials accepted by the Board Chair as supplementary evidence, and any materials submitted in response to the appeal will be sent to Board members with a recommendation from DEP staff. Persons filing appeals and interested persons are notified in advance of the date set for Board consideration of an appeal or request for public hearing. With or without holding a public hearing, the Board may affirm, amend, or reverse a Commissioner decision or remand the matter to the Commissioner for further proceedings. The Board will notify the appellant, a license holder, and interested persons of its decision.
II. Judicial Appeals
Maine law generally allows aggrieved persons to appeal final Commissioner or Board licensing decisions to Maine’s Superior Court, see 38 M.R.S.A. § 346(1); 06-096 CMR 2; 5 M.R.S.A. § 11001; & M.R. Civ. P 80C. A party’s appeal must be filed with the Superior Court within 30 days of receipt of notice of the Board’s or the Commissioner’s decision. For any other person, an appeal must be filed within 40 days of the date the decision was rendered. Failure to file a timely appeal will result in the Board’s or the Commissioner’s decision becoming final.
An appeal to court of a license decision regarding an expedited wind energy development, a general permit for an offshore wind energy demonstration project, or a general permit for a tidal energy demonstration project may only be taken directly to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. See 38 M.R.S.A. § 346(4).
Maine’s Administrative Procedure Act, DEP statutes governing a particular matter, and the Maine Rules of Civil Procedure must be consulted for the substantive and procedural details applicable to judicial appeals.
If you have questions or need additional information on the appeal process, for administrative appeals contact the Board’s Executive Analyst at (207) 287-2452 or for judicial appeals contact the court clerk’s office in which your appeal will be filed.
Note: The DEP provides this INFORMATION SHEET for general guidance only; it is not intended for use as a legal reference. Maine law governs an appellant’s rights.