Governor Mills Urges Interior Secretary to Involve Maine Fishermen in Federal Plans for Commercial Offshore Wind in Gulf of Maine

Governor also requests to restart the Gulf of Maine Offshore Wind Task Force to ensure regional discussions among states and federal government about leasing commercial offshore wind projects

Following the U.S. Department of the Interior’s announcement of plans to start commercial offshore wind leasing along the East Coast, including undetermined sites in the Gulf of Maine, Governor Janet Mills is urging the Department to first ensure Maine fishermen are engaged and heard in the process.

In a letter to Interior Secretary Deborah Haaland, Governor Mills applauded the Biden Administration’s commitment to the environmental and economic benefits of offshore wind, but pressed the Secretary to involve Maine fishermen in the Administration’s plans for leasing in the Gulf of Maine for commercial offshore wind.

The Governor highlighted her Administration’s work leading up to the State’s application for the nation’s first research site for floating offshore wind, which included a year of dialogue, detailed analysis of scientific and fisheries data, and a thorough public process to underscore for the Federal government “why research is the next reasonable step for offshore wind in Maine.” The Governor urged the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), a part of the Department of the Interior, to use Maine’s responsible, deliberate, and research-driven approach to offshore wind as a model for its engagement.

“My Administration has committed to pursuing offshore wind energy in a way that works best – a thoughtful, deliberate, and responsible approach that leads with listening to those for whom offshore wind may not be viewed as opportunity but as a threat to their way of life. Here in Maine, that means listening to many in our important fishing industry, which is synonymous with our state’s history, heritage, and culture, and which is one of our leading economic sectors,” wrote Governor Mills. “Their concerns about offshore wind matter to Maine, and they matter to me, especially against the backdrop of other federal actions in the Gulf of Maine that, in my view, have emerged without adequate consideration or appreciation of their effect on those who rely on the ocean for their lives and livelihoods.”

“While I am supportive of responsibly advancing offshore wind, I ask you, and the staff of BOEM, to look closely at the work we are doing in Maine, and consider it a model for a thoughtful, deliberate, and productive approach to moving forward,” the Governor continued.

Governor Mills also requested that BOEM reconvene the Gulf of Maine Offshore Wind Task Force with Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, which was created to spur regional collaboration on offshore wind but which has only held one meeting to date.

“With the Administration's announcement, the timing is right to hold further discussions to ensure a level playing field among states, and to explore joint investment and mitigation opportunities stemming from commercial leasing in the Gulf,” the Governor wrote. “Maine fishermen must be involved in the Federal dialogue, just as they are involved here at the state level.”

On October 13, 2021, Secretary Haaland announced plans for BOEM to potentially hold up to seven new offshore lease sales by 2025 in the Gulf of Maine, New York Bight, Central Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico, as well as offshore the Carolinas, California, and Oregon in order to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.

This announcement came two weeks after the Mills Administration applied to BOEM to lease a 15.2-square-mile area in the Gulf of Maine for the nation’s first research site in federal waters for floating offshore wind.

On this site, which is nearly 30 miles offshore, the State hopes to deploy a small-scale research array of 12 or fewer wind turbines on innovative floating hulls designed at the University of Maine. This project will advance UMaine’s patented technology and will foster leading research into how floating offshore wind interacts with Maine’s marine environment, fishing industry, shipping and navigation routes, and more.

The application followed an extensive public process, including an analysis by the Maine Department of Marine Resources that helped identify areas to minimize known potential impacts on the fishing industry. Further, Governor Mills signed LD 336 into law in June, which established an offshore wind research consortium that includes members of Maine’s fishing industry, marine scientists, offshore wind industry experts, and others to oversee research priorities for the array.

Harnessing the unequaled wind resources off the coast of Maine is seen as key for achieving the State’s goal of using 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, which will curb harmful greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change. This effort is of importance for the Gulf of Maine, where surface temperatures are warming faster than nearly every other body of water in the world.

With some estimates forecasting offshore wind as a $1 trillion global market by 2040, responsible development of this industry is a unique economic opportunity for Maine to create good-paying jobs in clean energy fields, maritime careers, manufacturing and fabrication trades, engineering, shipbuilding, and more.

To seize upon the unique opportunity offshore wind represents for Maine, Governor Mills in 2019 created the Maine Offshore Wind Initiative, a multi-faceted approach to pursue a thoughtful, responsible path for offshore wind.

Elements of the initiative include a comprehensive economic plan for an offshore wind industry in Maine, the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap; the research array for floating offshore wind; a study of port infrastructure to support offshore wind focusing on Searsport; regional collaboration through the Gulf of Maine Task Force; and forging offshore wind research and development partnerships.

To support offshore wind research, Maine has also signed an agreement with the United Kingdom to share offshore wind research, become members of the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium, joined the Business Network for Offshore Wind to create economic and investment opportunities for Maine businesses in offshore wind, and joined the Regional Wildlife Science Entity (RWSE), an organization dedicated to ocean wildlife research and monitoring in offshore wind.

A copy of the Governor’s letter is attached (PDF).