AUGUSTA — Fishermen from across the state gave their support last week to a local legislator’s bill that would ban the development of offshore wind projects in the Gulf of Maine.
If passed, the bill would prohibit state officials from permitting or approving offshore wind projects along the coast.
The bill, LD 101, was introduced by Rep. William “Billy Bob” Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) who is also a commercial fisherman.
“It is time to put a permanent halt to offshore wind development,” Faulkingham said during a hearing with the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.
Dozens of fishermen submitted testimony and felt that any development of wind turbines off the coast would pose a threat to the livelihoods of lobstermen.
Faulkingham also argued that offshore wind would put marine life at risk, provide poor energy rates and hurt the oceans and Maine’s tourism industry.
“If at some point in the future there’s strong and convincing evidence that this energy would be a worthwhile endeavor to the benefit of the people of Maine, then we could have that debate then,” he said. “But right now this is a science project proposing to turn the Gulf of Maine, her marine life sea mammals (and) ocean bottom into a test tube for the benefit of foreign corporations.”
The ban would only apply to state waters, according to Faulkingham.
Several local fishermen were among the supporters of the bill.
Jason Joyce, an eighth-generation lobsterman and a selectman on Swan’s Island, said the push by foreign wind companies seeking to industrialize the Gulf of Maine is an “unprecedented attack” on the fishery.
“My family has stewarded these waters, protected and earned a living from its sustainably managed fisheries since 1806 and we are one of thousands of generational families that plan to pass a better planet to the next generation,” he wrote in his testimony. “If these multinational corporations are not stopped, we will be displaced and you will witness the destruction of Maine’s year-round small fishing villages.”
Many fishermen said they were in support of green energy but felt that wind power wasn’t worth the risk.
“There are many other options of renewable green energy that don’t require the destruction of a hard-working industry,” wrote Nathaniel Snow, a Tremont lobsterman. “Nuclear power, hydroelectric and solar are all much more viable options. Offshore wind is an unproven, untested technology and we should not use the pristine waters of the Gulf of Maine as a science lab to test these massive turbines.”
Governor Janet Mills seemingly tried to appease fishermen’s concerns by putting forward a bill that would place a 10-year moratorium on wind development in state waters as the state goes forward with a plan for a wind turbine research array, though that idea didn’t seem to catch on with many lobstermen who attended a rally last month.
During the bill hearing, the Governor’s energy office, along with several big-name environmental groups, urged the committee to vote “ought not to pass” on the bill.
They argued that the state has worked hard to get itself in a position to be a leader in wind energy and offshore wind presents a chance to decrease greenhouse gases while providing strong economic opportunities.
“Harnessing a portion of Maine’s extensive offshore wind energy resources is key to our efforts to address climate change and to maximizing the tremendous economic opportunities associated with Maine’s clean energy transition,” said David Costello, the climate and clean energy director with the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Wind proponents warned that the bill would not stop wind farms in federal waters in the Gulf of Maine and instead would hurt the state because the economic benefit would likely go to New Hampshire or Massachusetts instead.
“It sends the message to developers like us that Maine is in fact closed for business,” said Chris Wissemann, with New England Aqua Ventus, a planned offshore wind test site off Monhegan. “The message is Maine does not welcome investment in projects, ports, harbors and jobs, and developers should go elsewhere.”
The committee plans to have a work session on this and the Governor’s moratorium, though a date has not yet been set.