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Maine Lawmakers Hear From Supporters, Opponents Of Offshore Wind Bills

Three of Deepwater Wind's turbines stand off Block Island, R.I.
Michael Dwyer
AP file
Three of Deepwater Wind's turbines stand off Block Island, R.I.

The fight over development of wind energy off the coast of Maine has moved to the State House, where lawmakers heard from dozens of supporters and opponents on Tuesday.

"Environmentally, economically and culturally this offshore wind proposal is as bad as it gets," says state Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, a Winter Harbor Republican who represents several midcoast fishing communities.

Faulkingham presented a bill intended to bar offshore wind energy projects, whether in state-controlled waters within three miles of shore or federal waters beyond. He says that the state should instead focus on other renewable energy sources, such as hydroelectricity or even nuclear power.

"We also have the potential for clean natural-gas powered electricity; we also have the potential for land-based wind and solar — all of these options have higher rewards and less environmental damage than offshore wind," he says.

Wind-energy supporters, many of them involved with the emerging industry, testified that Maine can do little to prevent turbines from being sited in federal waters, and that partnering with the industry now will help protect state interests.

Richard Silkman, the CEO of Portland-based Competitive Energy Services, says that he's been analyzing the prospects for "decarbonizing" the region's economy and thinks that land-based renewable energy sources will not create enough energy to meet the state's aggressive carbon-reduction goals.

"If you were ever to think about passing the bill, then you might as well amend it, and the amendment ought to say you are rescinding all of Maine's climate goals, because you can not get to zero carbon or anywhere close to zero carbon in Maine without a heavy reliance on offshore wind," Silkman says.

Some opponents of Faulkingham's effort to completely bar offshore wind projects did back a more modest proposal from Governor Mills. She is proposing a 10-year moratorium on wind energy development within state waters only — with an exemption for a prototype, single-platform turbine slated for waters near Monhegan Island.