As part of Maine’s Offshore Wind Initiative, the state will develop a Floating Offshore Wind Research Array in the Gulf of Maine to foster research into floating offshore wind and how it interacts with the marine wildlife, fishing industry, shipping and navigation routes, and more. (Adobe Stock)

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By Kathryn Carley

August 1, 20223

 Labor advocates are hailing Maine Governor Janet Mill’s signing of a landmark bill creating a new offshore wind energy industry in the state, with strong protections for workers. The bill was negotiated by lawmakers, advocates for Maine’s fishing industry and organized labor, who say it will create thousands of union jobs and apprenticeship opportunities for years to come.

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 12-53 apprentice electrician Kimberly Tobias said the new industry will not only mean steady paychecks, but strong safety standards.

“You know, at the end of the day, we’re all just here to go home to our families, and having the strong labor standards there can ensure that we all go home the same way that we came in,” she explained.

The new law also protects jobs with Maine’s vital fishing industry by ensuring that floating wind turbines are sited away from prime fishing and lobstering grounds. Tobias added Maine workers can take pride in building a new industry that will provide greater economic security, both for workers and surrounding communities.

Maine, like other New England states, has struggled with a worker shortage. Construction of a new port facility is expected to help by attracting the workforce needed to build the state’s offshore wind infrastructure.

Jayme Skelton, IUOE Local 4 operating engineer, said for too long, local tradespeople have had to travel elsewhere to find good-paying contracts, but that’s expected to change.

“It brings a lot of possibilities for a lot of us who are already in the workforce to come home and work on these projects, as well as bringing new and upcoming people wanting to get into the trades,” Skelton said.

The governor’s signing of the legislation marks a major milestone in the state’s goal of producing 100% renewable energy by 2040. Or, as President Joe Biden called it during his visit to Maine last week, “a big, big deal”.