The Vermont attorney general's office has dropped its criminal investigation into whether an environmental activist has operated as a lawyer without a law license in her advocacy for critics of large-scale wind and solar power projects before state regulators.

The office announced on Monday it had examined the claims against Annette Smith and found them to be without merit.

Smith is executive director for a group called Vermonters for a Clean Environment and is not a lawyer. News of the investigation of her had prompted a public outcry from supporters upset by what they say was a legal action designed to quash someone's free-speech rights.

Smith lives in Danby. She spoke to nearly 100 cheering supporters at the Statehouse and sharply criticized the state's system for renewing energy projects.