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Advocates call for better regulation of offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine

Offshore Wind Gulf Of Maine
Michael Dwyer
AP file
In this Aug. 15, 2016, file photo, wind turbines from the Deepwater Wind project stand in the sea off Block Island.

Environmentalists are criticizing a decision by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management not to conduct a comprehensive environmental review before designating areas for offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine.

In May, the Conservation Law Foundation, Maine Audubon, Friends of Casco Bay and other organizations requested that the agency take that step.

But in announcement Friday about new strategies for identifying areas for wind development, the agency opted not to meet the environmental advocates' request.

As it stands, the federal agency will first designate Wind Energy Areas, and then conduct an environmental impact analysis. Erica Fuller, a senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, says this approach is fraught.

"It's really hard to go backwards once you've leased an area," says Fuller. "If someone pays $100 million for a lease, it's really hard to go back and say, 'You know, that might not be an appropriate place to site it.'"

Fuller says she hopes the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will reconsider this decision.

Murray Carpenter is Maine Public’s climate reporter, covering climate change and other environmental news.