Groups Call for Investigation into
Plum Creek's Payments to Supporters of Moosehead Plan
Tuesday, December 29, 2009--Augusta, ME
Native Forest Network (NFN) and the Forest Ecology Network (FEN) together are calling on the Attorney General's Office to investigate the money that Plum Creek paid to its supporters to enable them to participate in the review of its rezoning application for the Moosehead Lake Area.
It was recently revealed that Plum Creek made payments to at least four groups that intervened in the Land Use Regulation Commission's review of the Moosehead Lake Concept Plan. Plum Creek claims that these payments were proper and essential to allowing their supporters to fully participate in the process. Groups such as the Piscataquis and Somerset County Economic Development Councils used money from Plum Creek to pay attorneys to represent their interests in the process. In all, over 20 organizations participated in the review process, including two with no legal assistance. It is, one of these groups, the Native Forest Network which now is joining the call for an independent investigation into Plum Creek's payments to its supporters.
"We ask that an independent, impartial investigator be appointed by the Attorney General's Office and given access to the resources necessary to conduct a full investigation into both the payments and the potential for perjury in the record," says Emily Posner, a volunteer with Native Forest Network. "Our group asked many of Plum Creek's supporters on the record during intervenor hearings if they were receiving funds from Plum Creek during the review process," says Posner.
The group issued an open letter to Attorney General Janet Mills today, requesting that the office look into the payments and the effects they may have had on the review process. One of the criteria that LURC was allowed to use in making its decision is the presence or absence of public support for the plan. The Native Forest Network and the Forest Ecology Network, both intervenors in the review process, are now questioning whether the participation of many supporters on Plum Creek's dime was a fair representation of the level of public support for the plan. Jonathan Carter, Director of the Forest Ecology Network, said the legitimacy of LURC's decision is called into question by the existance of these payments. "We spent four years scraping up small donations from hundreds of concerned citizens around the state in order to have our perspectives heard before LURC, while Plum Creek was able to buy more time in front of LURC by other hiring organizations."
In particular, the groups are pointing to the system that was used to allocate time between various intervenors in the hearing process. LURC staff allocated time to each group for the presentation of testimony and for cross-examining other parties witnesses, dividing up a total of over three weeks of hearings between the more than 20 intervenors. NFN and FEN are now wondering if that division of time may have favored Plum Creek unfairly. "By fraudulently representing themselves, these groups effectively reduced the time alloted for other intervenors. This undoubtedly had an impact on the entire record and on LURC's final decision," said Carter
This latest round of allegations of misconduct comes while a number of groups that opposed the plan are appealing LURC's decision in court.