Committee holds off decision on offshore wind ban 

AUGUSTA—The committee overseeing a local lawmaker’s bill that would ban offshore wind development held off on a decision on whether they felt it ought to pass or not last week.

Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) proposed a bill that would halt the state from permitting any offshore wind projects over concerns about the turbine’s effects on the environment and fishing industry.

The bill has been a lightning rod in Augusta and received more than 150 pieces of testimony.

Fishermen rallied behind the bill, saying there were too many unknowns and that the wind industry would wreak havoc on their livelihoods, while opponents said it would stunt the growing wind energy industry, hurt the state’s goal to fight climate change and signal that Maine was closed for business when it came to these kinds of projects.

Last week (May 18), the Committee on Energies, Utilities and Technology held a work session on the bill, where legislators heard from the Gov. Janet Mills’ energy office and from Faulkingham.

The committee was on the cusp of voting on the bill but ended up tabling it.

Faulkingham argued that the state, which is developing a “road map” for offshore wind development as it works on a wind turbine research array, should create the road map before starting planning on the array.

“What they are doing is picking cities and projects and using the road map to fill in the blanks,” he said. “The whole thing is out of control.”

Dan Burgess, with the energy office, said that the road map would advise on projects and there would be a collaborative process. The goal is to add to the economy with these opportunities, not displace other industries.

The committee appeared ready to vote “ought not to pass” on the bill during the remote hearing, garnering a motion and a second. But the committee never ended up voting on that motion and went into a 20-minute off-camera caucus. After reemerging, the committee voted to table the bill.

The committee is also considering a bill from the Governor that would enact a 10-year offshore wind development moratorium in state waters, though it decided not to take it up during last week’s work session.

Ethan Genter

Ethan Genter

Former reporter for the Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander, Ethan covered maritime news and the town of Bar Harbor.

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