AUGUSTA — Statoil North America is putting its efforts to develop an offshore wind energy project in Maine on hold until the fall as a result of an amendment to an omnibus energy bill in the Legislature last week that put Statoil’s already-approved project in direct competition with a University of Maine proposal.

Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, said Wednesday that he and Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, had a conference call Wednesday morning with Statoil officials.

“They told us that they are putting every investment, every partnership and every collaboration on hold in the state of Maine because of the uncertainty and risk involved with their project,” said Alfond. “They said they will be reevaluating their entire project sometime this fall. Some of our worst fears have come true. … This is a very, very bad day for the state of Maine.”

Attempts to reach Statoil’s spokesman were not successful on Wednesday.

Alfond said the reason Statoil is waiting until the fall is because that’s when documents associated with the University of Maine’s application to the Public Utilities Commission are due.

Alfond said Statoil indicated that they would send a letter to the Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday informing the regulatory agency that their plans are on hold. Alfond attacked Gov. Paul LePage and Senate Republicans for scuttling the deal, which he said would have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in Maine and hundreds of jobs.

“This is politics at its worst,” said Alfond. “It’s changing the rules midstream. It sends a terrible signal. Why would an international corporation go to a state where regulations can change midstream? Why would you go to a state where the chief executive can pick winners and losers? … I don’t know if we’ll ever see another opportunity like this in my lifetime.”

No one from LePage’s press office, nor Patrick Woodcock, director of LePage’s energy office, could be immediately reached Wednesday afternoon.

On June 24, the day after the amendment passed, LePage dodged any responsibility for the amendment, though Alfond strongly disputed that.

“I’m not reneging on anything,” LePage said, referring to the deal the PUC approved with Statoil in January. “I didn’t do it. The Legislature did it. I wasn’t there. I was in bed.”

Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s spokeswoman, elaborated on LePage’s position.

“The amendment would allow for more competition with UMaine, and that’s simply something he thought was necessary to move forward,” Bennett said June 24.

“We also think our home, our flagship university should have that ability to compete for a project that’s going to benefit the state of Maine and beyond. That’s really where he’s coming from on that, allow for open competition and allow our flagship to be part of it.”

Statoil’s decision could be a major blow to Maine’s development of an offshore wind industry.

“These types of opportunities do not happen often and they definitely do not happen often in Maine,” wrote Annette Bossler, an international business consultant in Bremen, in testimony to the PUC when the commission was considering Statoil’s project.

“If the Statoil Hywind project in Maine does not happen, the result will be that Maine will be off the list for floating offshore. If a major player in the floating offshore wind industry such as Statoil starts the work in Maine but then the project does not happen, that news will go global as well as the reasons why,” she wrote.

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