In this April 28, 2021, file photo, lobstermen and their families attend a rally to protest Maine Gov. Janet Mills' support for offshore wind projects in Augusta. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Maine’s fishermen are pushing for a complete ban on offshore wind turbines amid concerns the benefits won’t outweigh the costs borne by those who earn a living on the water.

In response to those concerns, a Republican-backed bill, proposed by Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, would prohibit state agencies from permitting offshore wind projects, according to the Portland Press Herald.

More than 50 testified on Tuesday before the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. Fishermen were mainly concerned with the impact that wind farms will have on the environment in the Gulf of Maine, and worried that wind farms would disrupt the ecosystem and threaten fishing opportunities.

“I feel the risk is too great with so many unknowns and unanswered questions about the impacts on the marine habitat,” Rex Benner, a fisherman, told lawmakers. “Again I strongly oppose to any floating windmills in the gulf of Maine because of my fear of what it will do to the birds, marine mammals and all living things in the ocean.”

Faulkingham claimed that “offshore wind was the worst kind of green energy,” according to the Portland newspaper. He also said that “offshore wind was three-to-five times more expensive than market prices … offshore wind would enrich foreign corporations with taxpayer money,” an apparent reference to a contract that the state signed allowing Central Maine Power to purchase electricity from Maine Aqua Ventus, a $100 million wind energy project off Monhegan Island.

He urged legislators to consider nuclear and hydro power as alternatives.

Opponents of Faulkingham’s bill are worried it will prevent much-needed economic development opportunities for Mainers.

Gov. Janet Mills proposed a counter bill, LD 1619, that would prevent offshore wind development on state managed lands or waters for the next 10 years.

Mills’ bill would prohibit the state from providing any licenses or permits allowing “the siting, construction or operation of a windmill or wind turbine 36 or tower for an offshore wind power project in state-owned submerged lands or Maine’s 37 territorial waters.”

Supporters of Mills’ bill agreed that it would allow for more opportunities to study and understand the impact of offshore wind projects and develop sophisticated technology in the future.

Maine Audubon representative Nick Lund wrote that the group is “eager to continue to work with the state to better understand the potential impacts of floating offshore wind turbines on migratory birds and other wildlife in the Gulf of Maine, and incorporate what we learn into future siting and operation decisions.”

Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.