By Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham
In 2017, offshore wind generation appeared to be a dead issue in Maine. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) had just completed an extensive study that deemed it too expensive for ratepayers. Now it is moving again at the speed of light.
In 2019, eighty percent of Maine’s electricity generation came from renewable energy sources. Maine leads New England in wind power generation. We rank sixth in the nation and wind provides 24 percent of our net generation. I point this out to say that Maine is a leader. I see many people advocating offshore wind development portraying Maine as being in the back of the pack on renewables, which is far from the truth.
What I would like to know is, why haven’t we started an independent study on the environmental impacts of offshore wind development? We have been told that we need to move quickly given the Governor’s ambitious goals. I have heard this repeatedly and from many people in the Legislature, the bureaucracy, special interest groups and from high-paid lobbyists working for foreign corporations. Where did these goals come from, and why are we using these goals as a target?
We are being told that we need to hurry in order to be a leader, but what does that really mean? Does that really mean so that Mitsubishi and other foreign corporations could be a leader? How does this really benefit the Maine taxpayers and ratepayers?
We have also been told that there is no contract price on the limit that power delivery will cost. We need to make sure that, whatever happens, the PUC will have the final say on the cost of electricity prices.
The fishing industry is being thrown under the bus on this issue. We continue to hear that the Gulf of Maine (GOM) has 36,000 square miles of water and the fishing industry needs to share. Well, in that regard, state waters are only 3,000 square miles. So why isn’t it easy to take those 3,000 miles immediately off the table? Federal Area 1, which is the nearest federal area where all 100 percent of Maine’s lobster industry fishes in federal waters, is only 11,098 square miles in its entirety from the New Hampshire border to Canada. That leaves two-thirds of the Gulf of Maine that is unfished by Maine’s fishing fleet. So why is the fishing industry branded as selfish, when we are only talking about one-third of the water in the GOM? We can’t even get that one-third excluded from this conversation? It seems to be a contradictory statement to call the fishing industry the selfish one, when more than two-thirds of the GOM is not fished by the industry and we can’t even move the conversation into that two-thirds of water.
Those of us in the fishing industry have posed several questions regarding the environmental repercussions of offshore wind that have gone unanswered. Everything from ocean currents and surface temperature warming (cold-pooling) to whales, sea mammals, sea birds and sea life too numerous to list it all could be negatively affected with devastating consequences.
It’s not good enough to simply state that we need to address global climate change and ignore all the possible negative environmental impacts. We need an independent study and then a roadmap that focuses on the two-thirds of the GOM that doesn’t affect the majority of Maine’s fisheries. It is irresponsible and dangerous to consider siting windmills before studies and a roadmap are done. This is currently the course we are on. If there is to be a research array, it needs to be done beyond 40 miles and Maine should be guaranteed substantial returns from the corporations that stand to profit.
Republican Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham is the state representative for House District 136 and a commercial fisherman from Winter Harbor.