A legislative committee endorsed a bill Wednesday that would lay the groundwork for developing offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine, with votes expected soon in the House and Senate.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Mark Lawrence, D-York, would set up a schedule for Maine to procure 3 gigawatts of electricity from offshore wind turbines by 2040, an amount that could power nearly 900,000 homes.

The bill, which received approval from the Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs, also includes protections for workers and the fishing industry, two groups that have expressed concerns about how wind power development might affect them.

“To combat climate change and invest in Maine’s energy independence, our state has set ambitious but necessary goals for renewable energy. It’s clear that this effort will involve offshore wind energy projects. If we know this is coming, we need to have guardrails in place to make sure this is done right and truly benefits Mainers,” Lawrence said in a news release Thursday.

The final bill is an amalgamation of three others: a bill to increase height maximums on offshore wind turbines, a bill to allow for the construction of a coastal port to service wind turbines, and a bill from Lawrence to begin identifying and contracting with the offshore wind developers – a process known as procurement.

Last month, the first two parts of the bill were combined and sent to the desk of Gov. Janet Mills, who struck them down with a veto. Mills cited her opposition to the original bill’s requirement that project labor agreements be attached to all offshore wind projects. She feared that this provision would prioritize union workers at the expense of non-union developers.


As amended, the final bill represents a compromise among legislators, Gov. Janet Mills and organized labor. While still protecting union labor, the legislation leaves the door open for non-union companies to compete for contracts.

Bill supporters see offshore wind power as a vital tool for meeting Maine’s climate and clean energy objectives. They say the project will protect coastal communities and ecosystems by reducing state dependency on non-renewable energy and its adverse environmental effects.

“[The bill’s] procurement targets for offshore wind are critical for meeting Maine’s climate and energy goals, while helping to stabilize energy costs, create high quality jobs, and ensure development is responsible and equitable,” said Steve Clemmer, director of energy research in the Union of Concerned Scientists Climate and Energy Program, in testimony.

According to Jack Shapiro, climate and clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the legislation’s proposed path is one that has been carved responsibly and sustainably with environmental protections in mind.

The legislation dictates that every offshore wind developer must commit $5,000 per megawatt of energy generated to a Research Consortium Fund, which will be used to launch environmental conservation and research projects. In addition, each developer who submits a bid must also present a plan to mitigate any environmental hazards that could be associated with their project.

“What we want to make sure that we do is that we are requiring the developers to show how they are going to address all of these issues to the highest standard,” Shapiro said. “Any environmental impact (of offshore wind) has to be taken in the context of the massive, ongoing and escalating environmental impacts that we’re already experiencing from climate change.”


Still, some opponents feel offshore wind development will pose an immediate threat to marine wildlife native to the Gulf of Maine, including the dwindling North Atlantic right whale population.

Opponents also warn that the bid to harness wind power in the gulf could damage vital ecosystems on which the fishing and lobstering industries depend.

“With 20,000 individuals employed aboard Maine’s fishing vessels or directly in the seafood supply chain, the productive and fragile waters of the Gulf of Maine should not be used as a testing ground for new offshore wind technology or to site large industrial wind farms,” said Maine Lobstermen’s Association President Kristan Porter.

In contrast, some lobstering industry members are satisfied with language in the bill seeking to protect Lobster Management Area 1, a key swath of lobstering grounds. The amended bill dictates that any offshore wind development would happen outside of this designated area.

If the bill is signed into law, the Public Utilities Commission will begin working with developers to kickstart the commercial development process.

As the bill heads to votes in the full House and Senate, Lawrence believes that what he sees as an extensively collaborative process will pay off.

“I am cautiously optimistic that it’s going to pass, simply because of the work that has been put in in advance on this bill,” Lawrence said.

“We sat down with the environmental community, with labor, with the fisheries and with the governor’s office and developers to talk through all the issues ahead of time … We wanted to try to resolve as many of the political obstacles up front (as possible), and I think we’ve done that.”

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