AUGUSTA—The Mills Administration introduced legislation on Wednesday that would establish a 10-year moratorium on offshore wind projects located in state waters.
The moratorium would preserve state waters – the 3 miles offshore – for fishing and recreation and maintain the Governor’s priority of locating offshore wind projects in the federal waters of the Gulf of Maine.
“We will focus these efforts in Federal waters farther off our coast, as we responsibly pursue a small research array that can help us establish the best way for Maine to embrace the vast economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement. “Fundamentally, I do not believe offshore wind and Maine’s fishing industry are mutually exclusive. I believe they not only can coexist, but, together, can help us build a stronger economy with more good-paying jobs and a brighter, more sustainable future for Maine people.”
The news came as a protest by fishermen and their supporters, including several local lobstermen, was scheduled to take place in Augusta on Wednesday. Many lobstermen have called for a ban on the technology for fear that it could hurt the multi-million–dollar fishery.
Representative Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington), who is also a commercial fisherman, said she supports the moritorium.
“This bill is part of a thoughtful and balanced approach that recognizes the concerns of the fishing industry while also building a new clean energy future for Maine,” she said.
In January, the state proposed to install a floating offshore research array in federal waters, the first of its kind, to study the performance of the turbines and how they interact with marine life and the fishing industry.
The array doesn’t have a specific site yet, though it is planned to be between 20 and 40 miles offshore with the ability to connect to the grid in southern Maine. It’s expected to take up about 16 square miles with no more than 12 turbines.
Mills’ move on Wednesday is not a surprise. In a letter to fishermen in January, she said that she planned to submit legislation to create the 10-year moratorium.
Other states and the Biden Administration have been pushing for more offshore wind as a way to cut down the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels.
The moratorium would not apply to cables, transmission lines and portside infrastructure that may support offshore wind projects and does not apply to a demonstration project in the Maine Offshore Wind Energy Research Center.
The legislation drew praise from Peter Rothstein, the president of the Northeast Clean Energy Council.
“Offshore wind will be key to powering the Northeast’s future clean energy economy, and we are confident that it will coexist with our region’s vibrant natural ecosystems,” he said in a statement. “Governor Mills’ balanced approach to supporting offshore wind development in federal waters while protecting Maine’s state waters for fishing and recreation sets the right course for Maine’s clean energy future.”
Some local legislators have already proposed going even further than a moratorium.
In January, state Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) introduced a bill that would prevent the state from permitting any offshore wind projects.
“Offshore wind is a terrible idea for Maine,” he previously told the Islander. “Single windmills are not practical and must be set up in arrays of at least 12 to 15 per wind farm. This means that a single array will take up many square miles of ocean surface and bottom [and] essentially blockade miles of ocean from bird or whale travel patterns and be visible for over 100 miles in all directions.”
The Mills Administration says it has taken proactive steps to create an economic development plan to build an offshore wind industry, known as a roadmap, that will recommend policies, strategies and investments for the state to responsibly take advantage of wind power in the Gulf of Maine. That roadmap is expected to be completed next year.