The oil and gas industry doesn’t want Mainers to build offshore wind.

Locally produced renewable energy threatens its dominance in Maine, the most heating oil-dependent state in the nation. The fossil fuel industry is already making its political presence felt in Maine, and in the coming months is expected to spend more and more out-of-state dollars to sow discord, divide Mainers from each other and try to convince us not to break our dependence on dirty fuels.

We urge you to see through their tactics. Fossil fuel companies are driven solely to protect their profits. Maine Audubon is committed to conserving Maine wildlife and habitats, which includes protecting wildlife and habitats from the worst impacts of climate change. We’ve been at it since we began as the Portland Society for Natural History in 1843, taking on pesticide companies, large-scale land developers and water-polluting factories along the way.

We’re ready for the fossil fuel industry, too, because we know that offshore wind will benefit wildlife. Climate change is the No. 1 threat to Maine wildlife and habitat, and it has already changed Maine’s wildlife landscape. We know because we’ve studied it.

For example, preliminary results of the five-year Maine Bird Atlas project show that dozens of bird species, including boreal chickadee and black-backed woodpecker, have moved rapidly out of areas they occupied just a few decades ago because a changing climate has pushed the habitat they require northward. It’s the same story in the Gulf of Maine, where the water has been warming since the 1980s at a rate three times faster than the rest of the world’s oceans. This warming is pushing cold-water species into deeper and cooler water away from the coast, while more southern species like longfin squid are moving into the Gulf and staying.

We’ve evaluated floating offshore wind, too, and believe that the benefits to Maine wildlife far outweigh the risks. There are far fewer birds in parts of the gulf that are being explored for offshore wind development compared to areas closer to shore, and we are actively working to reduce any risk to the birds that are out there. Floating offshore wind does not involve the kind of mono pile hammering that fixed-bottom turbines do, so the acoustic impacts to marine mammals, including whales, and to fish are minimal. There will be impacts to wildlife, but we know that they will be far below the impacts of climate change and we are taking every opportunity to require the offshore wind industry to study, avoid and mitigate potential wildlife impacts.

And the potential benefits are extraordinary. Wind in the Gulf of Maine is a resource we can sustainably farm for a long time to come. Offshore wind energy production peaks in the winter when Maine’s energy needs are at their highest, so it has benefits over other renewable energy sources that peak in summer months. Floating offshore wind could deliver clean, renewable energy to Maine at a consistent, reliable price while avoiding the need to build costly and controversial new pipelines across the state.

Offshore wind development can also avoid most impacts to Maine’s iconic fishing and lobstering industry, which must be preserved. Despite what the fossil fuel industry wants you to believe, offshore wind hasn’t caused the collapse of fisheries around the world. Turbines in the gulf will be placed miles away from the vast majority of lobster traps, and state and federal agencies have rightly ensured that Maine’s fishing industry has seats at every table, hosting dozens of dedicated meetings with the fishing industry to ensure their concerns are heard and appropriately addressed.

The fossil fuel companies will disagree, no matter what the truth is. Their job is to drive wedges between Mainers, and they have millions of dollars to do it. But they won’t mention the fact that the Gulf of Maine is the fastest-warming water body on Earth, and the fossil fuel industry itself is primarily to blame. They don’t care about Maine, or lobstering, or birds – just profit. They’re part of just another industry trying to push its agenda at the expense of Maine’s people and environment. We’ve seen it before. We hope you see it, too.

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