BMR BRUSNWICK, LLC, et. al., Petitioners
STATE OF MAINE, DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, et. al., Respondents
DECISION AND ORDER
Joyce A. Wheeler, Justice.
This matter is before the Court on petitioner's SOC appeal of a decision of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (" MDEP") to issue a stormwater management permit to respondent Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (" NNEPRA") for the construction of a railroad maintenance facility. Petitioners argue that they are " abutters" under MDEP rules and therefore were entitled to notice of NNEPRA's permit application, which they did not receive. NNEPRA and MDEP argue that petitioners are not abutters and were therefore not entitled to notice under the rules.
The facts of this case are not in dispute. NNEPRA plans to construct a passenger train layover facility on land it owns in Brunswick, Maine. One of the permits NNEPRA was required to obtain to build the facility is the Stormwater Law Permit (" Stormwater Permit") under 38 M.R.S. § 420-D (2013). Under MDEP rules, a Stormwater Permit applicant is required to mail notice of the application " to abutters, as determined by local tax records, or other reliable means .... " 06-096 C.M.R. ch. 2, § 14(A). NNEPRA did not notify the petitioners of their Storm water Permit application.
The petitioners own property near the site of the proposed layover facility, however, each of petitioners' lots is separated from NNEPRA's lot by a strip of land owned by the State of Maine. (R. at Tab 12.) In 1991, the Maine Central Railroad Company conveyed the strip of land abutting NNEPRA's lot to the State but reserved for itself a " rail freight easement" over the property. (Stipulations ¶ 4.) Railroad tracks pass over the State's land that NNEPRA and others use to transport passengers and freight. (Stipulations ¶ 5.)
1. Standard of Review
In reviewing agency action pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. SOC, " review is limited to whether the government agency abused its discretion, committed an error of law, or made findings not supported by substantial evidence in the record." Seider v. Bd. of Exam'rs of Psychologists , 2000 ME 206, ¶ 8, 762 A.2d 551 (quotation marks omitted). " Considerable deference is given to the agency's interpretation of its own rules, regulations, and procedures, and [the court] will not set aside the agency's findings unless the rule or regulation plainly compels a contrary result." Mulready v. Bd. of Real Estate Appraisers , 2009 ME 135, ¶ 13, 984 A.2d 1285 (quotation marks omitted).
NNEPRA challenges petitioners' standing to bring the appeal. " Whether a party has standing depends on the wording of the specific statute involved." Nelson v. Bayroot, LLC , 2008 ME 91, ¶ 9, 953 A.2d 378. In this case, MDEP's rules provide:
Any person may seek judicial review of a final Commissioner or Board decision by filing a petition in Superior Court in accordance with 5 M.R.S. section 11001 et seq. and M.R. Civ. P. 8OC, except where otherwise provided by law. The filing of an appeal with the Board is not a prerequisite for a judicial appeal.
06-096 C.M.R. ch. 2, § 28. Accordingly, the Maine Administrative Procedure Act (" Maine APA") is the governing statute for petitioners' appeal.
Under the Maine APA, " any person who is aggrieved by final agency action" is entitled to judicial review. 5 M.R.S. § 11001(1) (2013). " A person is aggrieved within the meaning of the APA if that person has suffered particularized injury--that is, if the agency action operated prejudicially and directly upon the party's property, pecuniary or personal rights." Nelson , 2008 ME 91, ¶ 10, 953 A.2d 378. NNEPRA argues that petitioners have not suffered any particularized injury to confer standing in this case.
A party that demonstrates a particularized injury is free to raise procedural issues that affect the validity of an administrative decision, regardless of whether those specific issues are related to the alleged injury. Matter of Lappie , 377 A.2d 441, 443 (Me. 1977). Thus, petitioners in this case do not need to show that their property will be affected by stormwater runoff, which is the subject of the permit. The standing analysis is more general: the issue is " whether the asserted effect on ...