Skip to main content

Maine Takes Step Forward with Passage of Port Permitting Legislation

Andy O’Brien
Social share icons

The Maine Legislature this week enacted an important measure that will allow the extensive state and federal permitting process to begin for a port to serve a new offshore wind industry for Maine and the Northeast.

The bill, LD 2266, was enacted in both the House & Senate and language consistent with LD 2266, “An Act Regarding Restoration and Protection of Coastal Sand Dune Systems and Permitting of an Offshore Wind Terminal on Sears Island,” was included in the supplemental state budget, which has passed both the House and Senate and now heads to Gov. Janet Mills. LD 2266 received bipartisan support as a stand-alone bill in both the House and the Senate.

The legislation allows the state and federal permitting process to start. It establishes within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) a Coastal Sand Dune Restoration and Protection Fund, and seeds the fund with $1 million for eligible sand dune conservation projects. It also allows the DEP to permit a new port on Sears Island if all permitting requirements are met, and it will permanently protect another ten acres on the island.

“With the storms that hit Maine’s coastal and inland communities this winter, we’ve seen just how devastating climate change already is for working people,” said Cynthia Phinney, President of the Maine AFL-CIO. “Offshore wind is our best shot to take on this crisis at scale, while bringing tons of good-paying union jobs to lift up Midcoast communities that have been hit hard by decades of factory closures and job losses. Passing this bill is a sensible, balanced approach to keeping Maine on track to realizing this once-in-a-generation opportunity.”  

On Tuesday, during the Searsport Select Board meeting, community advocates from Searsport submitted a petition to the Board with more than 100 signatures from Searsport residents in support of offshore wind and a new port and voiced their support to the Board.

The petition states: “The undersigned residents of Searsport are in support of the Searsport Select Board in its pursuit of developing an offshore wind port. This once in a lifetime opportunity addresses both our commitment to economic development in the area and our commitment to the future of clean energy production and energy independence for Mainers.”

“The Midcoast has been hit hard in the last decade,” said Matt Pender, an electrical worker from Searsport. “The mill in Bucksport closed and hundreds of jobs were lost. The town has worked hard to recover, but losing 40% of your tax base and 500 jobs takes time and a lot of effort. Now, with a new port we have a chance to create new, local jobs for Maine people. For my daughter’s sake, I know that we need to do everything we can to fight back against climate change, and one of the best ways we can do that is to develop offshore wind energy.”

This petition follows action by the Select Board, which in December 2023 passed a site-neutral resolution supporting the state’s process to develop an offshore wind port in Searsport, and calling on the State to ensure the town continues to have a meaningful seat at the table as the project moves forward.

A strong coalition of labor and environmental organizations have come together to support the development of offshore wind through the passage of Maine’s landmark offshore wind procurement bill (LD 1895) in 2023, and now in support of building a new port where turbines would be assembled by Maine workers.

“For too long workers have been forced to choose between their jobs and protecting our planet, but with responsibly developed offshore wind and a port of our own here in Maine, we’re showing that that’s a false choice,” said Francis Eanes, Executive Director of the Maine Labor Climate Council. “We keep hearing from workers who live in the Midcoast area and are excited to have good, steady work close to home, potentially for their whole career. That’s a game changer, and by passing this bill we’re one step closer to making that a reality.”