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Rushed development of offshore wind will have unintended fallout

There are almost a dozen bills before the 130th Maine Legislature that will help fund and support massive industrialization in the Gulf of Maine. These bills include L.D. 1689: An Act to Ensure Equity in the Clean Energy Economy by Providing a Limited Tax Exemption for Certain Clean Energy Infrastructure Projects; L.D. 1231: An Act Concerning Climate and Community Investment Projects; L.D. 1634: An Act to Create the Maine Generation Authority; L.D. 1659: An Act to Crate the Maine Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator, and L.D. 336: An Act to Encourage Research to Support the Maine Offshore Wind Industry.

Offshore wind development is not a new conversation, neither in Maine nor the United States. An Act to Facilitate Testing and Demonstration of Renewable Ocean Energy Technology was passed in 2009 in Maine, and in 2016 Rhode Island’s Block Island five-turbine test project was erected. The past 10 years have been wrought with obstacles, mistakes, contention and failure, and now, rather than learning from these mistakes, the current administration is full steam ahead in its plans to develop the ocean at an unprecedented pace with an alarming lack of consideration for the current circumstances caused by the pandemic and other existential threats looming over Maine’s fishermen, like gear reduction in both the lobster and groundfish fishery because of hypothetical right whale entanglements.

In 2019, the Legislature passed a bill to ban offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration in Maine’s ocean waters, citing impacts to “Maine citizens and economically significant industries, including … commercial and recreational fishing, and small business that rely on a clean and healthy ocean.” While the potential impacts of oil and gas drilling exploration are clear, they are less so in regard to siting for offshore wind turbines, although many of the impacts and techniques are similar.

The Gulf of Mexico is home to productive offshore oil and gas sites and has about 1,900 platforms. In recent articles, it has been noted that coastal states from Maine to Virginia have set goals for offshore wind totaling nearly 30 gigawatts, which would require nearly 3,600 platforms. If we continue the rush trajectory that we are currently on, including here in Maine, the Eastern Seaboard will become home to almost twice the number of platforms that are currently in the Gulf of Mexico.

Maine fishermen have been protecting the Gulf of Maine for hundreds of years and many generations. Maine fishermen, and fishermen across the United States, are not opposed to identifying solutions that support the health of the environment. Fishermen are asking for the current administration to do better before they spend billions of dollars on one of the most expensive forms of electricity to build and operate and industrialize the ocean. Because when small family fishing businesses are displaced and shuttered, we will forever lose access to another renewable resource: food.

Jason Joyce is a fisherman and a resident of Swan’s Island, and Linda Greenlaw is a fisherman, an author and a resident of Surry.