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Maine lawmakers consider offshore wind bills

In this Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 photo, the University of Maine's 9,000-pound prototype wind turbine generates power off the coast of Castine, Maine. It was the country's first floating wind turbine.
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
In this Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 photo, the University of Maine's 9,000-pound prototype wind turbine generates power off the coast of Castine, Maine. It was the country's first floating wind turbine.

A legislative committee on Thursday heard testimony on a pair of bills affecting the offshore wind industry.

One would direct the Public Utilities Commission to contract for at least 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, and 2,800 megawatts by 2035. It would also direct the commission to establish labor standards, monitor wind projects' effects on the marine environment, and develop transmission infrastructure.

State senator Mark Lawrence, a democrat from Eliot, is the bill sponsor. He says 2030 may seem a long way off, but offshore wind project developers need a lot of lead time.

"A project like this takes many many years to bring to fruition," he said. "Developers will tell you that even if we pass a procurement. We're talking five years before we ever see any energy come out of that project, at least."

Supporters said the offshore wind projects would stabilize energy prices and create thousands of jobs, while helping the state meet its climate goals.

But Aaron Dana, a Passamaquoddy tribal representative to the legislature, said the tribe had not been consulted on the offshore wind plans, and opposes the offshore wind plans due to their potential impacts on cultural and environmental resources.

"These plans will impact our traditional fishing grounds, and access to our sources of sustenance," he said, "and impose on our unceded tribal saltwater rights."

The committee was also scheduled to hear testimony on a bill that would prohibit state agencies and municipalities from enabling offshore wind projects in state or federal waters.

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