A version of this article was originally published in The Daily Brief, our Maine politics newsletter. Sign up here for daily news and insight from politics editor Michael Shepherd.
Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District asked federal regulators for transparency around investigations of beached whales along the Atlantic coast that threaten to drive a bigger wedge between fishermen and offshore wind plans.
The context: At least 18 large whales have been washed ashore along the Atlantic coast since December, an unusually high figure that has coincided with offshore wind exploration in the same area. While theories are circulating that the industry may be the culprit, there is no firm evidence to support the idea.
These whale beachings have been concentrated in mid-Atlantic states so far, but they threaten to add another complicating layer to relations with the fishing industry here.
Endangered right whales, one of the species that has washed up in places, have been at the heart of a long-running rules dispute between federal regulators and fishermen in Maine. Golden and the congressional delegation, backed by Gov. Janet Mills, won a six-year pause on new federal rules on that subject in a spending bill passed in December.
Sticking points: Mills also weathered criticism of her offshore wind plans from lobstermen during the 2022 campaign. She compromised with the industry in 2021 to permanently bar offshore wind turbines in state waters, but now Mills’ administration is aggressively pursuing wind development there, including a floating turbine project expected to be operational next year.
While campaigning, Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District, broke somewhat with Mills on the offshore debate to say he would oppose wind projects that aren’t supported by fishermen.
On Monday, Golden sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration urging it to release how it will investigate the strandings and share information publicly.
Key quote: “Making the data on these whale deaths public is critical so everyone has a shared understanding of how they are dying and to ensure that regulators are adequately addressing those threats,” Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, which calls offshore wind a policy area “looming” over the industry, said in a statement.
Mills’ counterpoint: The governor has promised to ensure an offshore wind plan that fishermen can get behind, including when she rolled out a plan for the industry last week.
“The Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap, developed collaboratively by a wide range of stakeholders, offers a responsible, forward-looking plan for how we can harness the power of wind far off the coast in the Gulf of Maine to seize the economic and environmental benefits for our state in collaboration with industries, families, and coastal communities that we care so deeply about,” she said.