Maine Conservation Voters on Thursday called for an investigation into possible unethical behavior at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The group delivered a petition with more than 2,500 signatures representing every Maine House and Senate district across the state to legislative leadership, questioning whether the direction of the department had been undermined by intimidation and by ties and benefits given to multi-million dollar corporations, said Maureen Drouin, executive director of MCV.

She said that the petition was generated in response to Colin Woodard’s series, The Lobbyist in the Henhouse, published in June by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel.

“It felt like a call to the environmental community to take the next step to hold (DEP) accountable,” said Gianna Short, data and communications manager of MCV.

“Maine people put their faith in state government and in the DEP to protect the water, the air and the land,” Drouin said, adding that the organization expected the Legislature to take action to correct perceived abuses, if an investigation demonstrated them to be accurate.

“They have many options to pursue,” Drouin said. Legislators could conduct their own investigation through joint standing committees of the legislature or further investigation by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, or through a request for the attorney general to look into the issues raised by Woodard’s series.

“It is unacceptable for vital environmental and public health protections to be subverted in the service of corporate interests,” the petition stated. “We ask the leaders of the Maine legislature to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation of the DEP to detail what unethical behavior has been committed, what laws, if any, have been broken, and what new regulations are needed to prevent this kind of improper influence in the future.”

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