Habib Dagher, founding executive director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine, talks about the development of offshore floating wind turbines in this Dec. 6, 2022, file photo. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

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Chip Curry of Belfast represents Waldo County in the Maine Senate. He is the chair of the Joint Committee on Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business.

For Maine to meet its aggressive — and necessary — goals for responding to climate change and transitioning to renewable energy, we must move fast and, as importantly, we must be smart.

We need to make our communities safer and more resilient to the impacts of climate change. We need to robustly protect vital industries, including lobstering and fishing, and we must produce our own, sustainable, renewable and clean energy.

Offshore wind — done right — is an important part of the solution, and doing it right means balancing the very real concerns of the lobster industry and protecting and supporting Mainers and the environment.

One principle of my faith tells me that everyone has inherent worth and dignity, and as we look to build offshore wind energy in Maine, I believe we must center those values at the start.

That’s why I have proposed LD 1818, An Act Regarding Port Facilities Relating to Offshore Wind Power Projects. If we’re going to build offshore wind, we will need to develop new, innovative ports facilities along our coast. And this process should be led by Maine communities, not the federal government or a large corporation. It should be led by Mainers.

As the state senator for Waldo County and a resident of Belfast, I understand the careful balancing act of protecting our working waterfronts, safeguarding our environment and developing the infrastructure that will create thousands of good jobs and economic opportunity for people in rural Maine.

But we must create the guardrails now — before we get started — to make sure that new industries focus on working people and protect their safety, provide for their future and treat them with dignity and respect. LD 1818 does just that.

The legislation has three major components: It requires offshore wind developers using state port facilities to create high-quality jobs and maximize federal port funding opportunities by adopting strong labor standards; requires developers to invest in local workforce development and prioritize the hiring of Maine workers, especially those from impoverishes rural communities; and prioritizes worker safety and the environment by requiring port facilities to seek federal funding for zero-emission equipment, which reduces noise and pollution for workers and nearby communities.

The bill does not — and this is critical — address where port facilities should be located, an issue that’s being considered by the Maine Department of Transportation and other important local stakeholders.

We have an incredible opportunity to create our own renewable energy in Maine and the good jobs that go with it, instead of sending billions of dollars out of state every year. This legislation lays the groundwork now to ensure that Maine people get the most out of a growing, new energy industry.

LD 1818 builds on the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap’s recommendations, as well as those from Maine Won’t Wait, the state’s four-year climate action plan, which recognize the importance of “high-quality jobs through strategies that pair job quality standards with clean-energy investments.”

Union jobs are good jobs. They help to create the backbone of the middle class, disrupt generational poverty, give workers an opportunity for lifelong improvement and bring together the needs of environmental sustainability, worker safety and the highest quality construction standards.

Mainers understand the need to grow offshore wind. Seven in 10 voters said they support expanding offshore wind energy. Large majorities of respondents believe expanding offshore wind would be good for energy independence, good jobs, a stronger economy, more affordable electricity and to help fight climate change.

We have the opportunity to launch a new industry in Maine and the ability to do it the right way. That starts with making sure working people — from port workers, to builders, to fishermen — are central to the work and have the opportunity to build our own, exciting future.