Mills’ Change Package Bribes Environmentalists to Support Controversial Offshore Wind Project


Last Friday before Easter weekend Gov. Janet Mills released her budgetary change package, taking four weeks to respond to a report of an additional $108 million in surplus revenue. The change package extends funding to several programs, but it also adds a new section – Section YYY – to the first iteration of the governor’s supplemental budget.

Section YYY does two things: it establishes a fund dedicated to restoring coastal dunes and educating the public about them while also waiving environmental protection laws for a future offshore wind terminal on Sears Island. 

These two ideas are in direct conflict. One funds the preservation of sand dune ecosystems while the other would significantly harm a sand dune ecosystem through the buildout of an unnecessary industrial wind project. Gov. Mills combined these two things to try to mend a conflict between two factions of her party, but that proposed solution does not make this wind farm project a good idea. Thus, the Legislature should just cut this provision from the final budget.

The Sears Island wind project waiver began in a separate governor’s bill, LD 2266, which recently passed out of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. This project received much criticism from both the left and right, and only a sliver of the center-left seemed to initially support this proposal.

The proposal arose out of Gov. Mills’ desire to create a new offshore wind project, which Maine has been eyeballing since the mid-2000s. In particular, she has her eyes set on an area of Sears Island, a well-forested island also home to a dune ecosystem, a vacation spot for many Mainers, and even historic sites of the Wabanaki tribe. 

This project would require the destruction of 75 acres of forest and has a high potential to harm the dunes, violating various environmental protections. That is why Gov. Mills is trying to create an exception to these laws for the Sears Island wind project.

However, many environmental groups have protested the wind farm due to Sears Island’s environmental and cultural value. Even the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club joined the opposition. To silence the debate on the issue and calm down the environmental objectors, Governor Mills merged the project permitting waiver with some environmental protection programs and hid it deep in her supplemental budget.

The additions include a fund to support the preservation and restoration of dunes harmed by projects like offshore wind, with a base funding of $1 million. This $1 million in funding comes directly from the disaster relief fund, which should instead be spent repairing damage from the storms Maine experienced late last year and in March.

A wind farm will still harm tourism on and around the island for those who want to experience nature and history rather than an industrial wind farm. It will also reduce natural carbon recapture by destroying 75 acres of forest. Offshore wind projects like this can also harm local ecosystems, birds, and potentially even whales through disorienting marine vibrations.

It’s also worth noting that forests and tree roots are crucial in stopping the erosion of sandy soils. All of this is to create a green energy power source considered one of the least reliable forms of green energy. Talk about a lose-lose. 

Mainers must ask: How much should we spend offsetting this wind project when there are better alternatives? Hopefully, the Legislature will see the drawbacks of the Sears Island project and remove Section YYY from Maine’s supplemental budget.