In recent days, Maine has experienced damaging storms and devastating coastal flooding. It is plain to see that the climate crisis is here and threatens our environment, wildlife, communities, and livelihoods.
Fossil fuels, like gas and oil, are the biggest polluters and leading cause of climate change. Therefore, to protect our state's ecosystems, we must quickly and equitably transition Maine off of fossil fuels and instead invest in renewable energy sources like offshore wind. Wind power is reliable and clean. When done responsibly, offshore wind development can better public health, protect wildlife, improve energy security, and provide local, family-sustaining jobs to Mainers.
Sierra Club strongly supports the safe and responsible development of offshore wind projects that avoid and minimize impacts on ecosystems and wildlife. We encourage the execution of responsible, clean energy projects that prioritize protections for our natural resources, help mitigate climate change, and maintain our way of life here in Maine.
While offshore wind energy projects will spur economic development, create jobs in coastal communities, improve energy security, and cut climate-destabilizing pollution they must be conceived and executed in ways that prioritize the protection of our natural resources which are critical to mitigating the impacts of climate change and maintaining our way of life here in Maine.
For these reasons, Sierra Club Maine supports Mack Point as the preferred alternative for the development of an Offshore Wind facility in Searsport, and NOT Sears Island.
The current proposal to site Maine’s inaugural offshore wind project on Penobscot Bay at Sears Island or Mack Point is as exciting as it is troublesome, and we need to make absolutely certain that we get it right both for the success of the project and for the protection of the natural resources in the region, Penobscot Bay, and our coastal waters.
Unfortunately, the State, and project proponents, have not presented evidence that they have done due diligence in analyzing the two sites, particularly in considering Sears Island as a potential site for this project. Sears Island is an undeveloped, natural area which should not be developed for this purpose when an existing industrial site is available nearby.
Sears Island is the largest undeveloped bridged island on Maine’s coast. Protection of coastal ecosystems is as important to addressing the impacts of climate change as renewable energy projects. We must think these through holistically.
An offshore wind port at Sears Island would clear, grade and compact more than 45 acres of upland, remove 1,215,000 cubic yards of earth and fill more than 17 acres of marine habitat with over 800,000 cubic yards of that harvested soil, destroying acres of eelgrass meadows, crucial fish habitat, fisheries nursery, coastal wetlands, and shellfish beds.
Locating the offshore wind port at Mack Point consolidates industry in a single location and removes unused physical remnants of outdated energy production that offshore wind intends to replace with clean, renewable, more sustainable energy production. The current owners of Mack Point, Sprague Energy, has released its own analysis and is ready to adjust its Mack Point port activity to accommodate offshore wind development.
As a signatory to Sears Island Planning Initiative agreement, endorsed by the Maine Legislature in 2008, Sierra Club Maine believes MDOT should ensure that, as outlined in the agreement, “Mack Point shall be given preference as an alternative to port development on Sears Island.”
We encourage the State of Maine to follow policies outlined by the Maine Climate Council and develop renewable energy with minimal disruption to the natural systems, specifically “...to ensure renewable energy project siting is streamlined and transparent while seeking to minimize impacts on natural and working lands and engaging key stakeholders”.
Let’s not make locating the necessary offshore wind port facility a long, expensive, disagreeable and highly contentious fight over the importance of maintaining intact ecosystem functions especially given that there is clearly a viable solution standing right in front of us.
Op-ed by Pete Nichols, Chapter Director, Sierra Club Maine