In her third executive order, Gov. Janet Mills on Thursday ended a 2018 moratorium restricting the issuance of permits for wind turbine projects across the state.
The moratorium on all commercial wind turbine licenses was implemented last January by former Gov. Paul LePage, who imposed it when he set up a commission to study the impact of turbines on tourism, property values and the environment. It earned his administration resistance in the Legislature and a handful of lawsuits from environmental groups.
Mills’ order means that state agencies with the “legal authority to issue permits can once again do their work with Maine’s local communities and stakeholders to determine which projects should go forward,” according to a prepared statement.
Groups with legal authority include the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the state’s Land Use Planning Commission and the Public Utilities Commission.
A DEP spokesperson said Friday that two wind projects were “processed and under review during the moratorium period.” He confirmed that no new permits were issued during the moratorium.
Her order will allow the state to “conduct a transparent vetting of all wind projects, onshore and offshore, to ensure they respect Maine communities and our environment while helping to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.”
“It is time for Maine to send a positive signal to renewable energy investor and innovators: We welcome you,” Mills said.
Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, expects Mills’ order will do just that.
“It sends an important signal to the energy marketplace, and it’s exactly the message that those businesses, developers and job creators are looking for — that Maine is indeed back open for the clean energy business,” Payne said.
But Chris O’Neil of Friends of Maine’s Mountains, thinks it’s more complicated.
Though his group expects “Mills to be more thoughtful than LePage” in the state’s overall pursuit of wind energy, it still does not change the fact that, “when you look at the mathematics of land-based wind in Maine, it doesn’t move in the needle” insofar as cost savings and clean energy generated, he said.
“Once people realize how little good these things do, they start seeing them as less pretty and more intrusive.”