The bill, which became effective immediately because it was introduced as an emergency measure, says that offshore wind power projects “may provide significant economic and environmental benefits to the State by generating renewable energy” but that siting them in Maine’s waters “may adversely affect resources, including scenic and aesthetic resources, and recreational and economic uses, including commercial fishing.”
“Maine is uniquely prepared to grow a strong offshore wind industry, create good-paying trades and technology jobs around the state, and reduce our crippling dependence on harmful fossil fuels. This legislation cements in law our belief that these efforts should occur in Federal waters farther off our coast through a research array that can help us establish the best way for Maine to embrace the vast economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind,” Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, said in a statement after signing LD 1619 last week.
The state Senate and state House both approved the measure on June 30. The measure received the required two-thirds support in each chamber.
Democrats control both chambers in addition to the governor’s mansion, one of 15 so-called Democrat trifectas in the United States.
Maine Sen. Mark Lawrence, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, said that the moratorium on developing wind projects in state waters “will protect Maine’s fisheries and coastal waters and maintain Maine’s status as a leader in developing clean energy and fighting climate change.”
The legislation drew support from the Maine Renewable Energy Association, the Northeast Clean Energy Council, and Maine Audubon.
Lobstermen who opposed development in state waters also backed the legislation.
Another recently signed bill, LD 336, also sponsored by Lawrence, pushes the creation of the first floating offshore wind research array in the United States in the Gulf of Maine.
The gulf is controlled by the federal government. The project has not yet been approved by federal officials.
The array, which is slated to be built by New England Aqua Ventus, would have a capacity of up to 144 megawatts. Government officials plan to enter a contract of 20 years or more for the array. The project will produce some 160,000 jobs, including planning, construction, and operations and maintenance, the state said in its 10-year economic plan.
Maine laws call for making the state a hub for floating offshore wind projects, with a focus on the Gulf of Maine.
The gulf “represents one of our state’s largest untapped clean energy resources,” according to Mills’s office.
Nearly a quarter of the electricity produced in Maine in 2019 came from wind turbines, according to the Energy Information Administration. Maine ranks sixth in the nation in the share of electricity generated from wind.