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Mediator for energy projects hearing more cases than ever

The increasing case number may be a harbinger of a new trend — in Texas and other states, legislators are moving to create buffer zones between military installations and new energy developments. That means more reviews are being sent to the clearinghouse for rulings.

The number of reviews conducted by an obscure Department of Defense office in connection with private energy projects near military bases is skyrocketing, data shows.

And that's potentially good for developers — the DoD's siting clearinghouse has challenged fewer than 1 percent of the 10,000 projects reviewed since its establishment in 2010. Though the clearinghouse technically doesn't have the authority to halt the development of a project, it's rare that plans proceed over the objection of the office.

The clearinghouse was created in response to a growing number of energy-related developments springing up near military installations. Chief among them were wind farms, which are thought by some to unduly interfere with military flight training missions and radar operation.

According to its website, the clearinghouse aims to settle disputes between private industry and military officials though a "mission compatibility evaluation process" that can take several weeks or longer to complete, depending on the complexity of the project.

The possibility of wind energy interference with military operations has been a... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The number of reviews conducted by an obscure Department of Defense office in connection with private energy projects near military bases is skyrocketing, data shows.

And that's potentially good for developers — the DoD's siting clearinghouse has challenged fewer than 1 percent of the 10,000 projects reviewed since its establishment in 2010. Though the clearinghouse technically doesn't have the authority to halt the development of a project, it's rare that plans proceed over the objection of the office.

The clearinghouse was created in response to a growing number of energy-related developments springing up near military installations. Chief among them were wind farms, which are thought by some to unduly interfere with military flight training missions and radar operation.

According to its website, the clearinghouse aims to settle disputes between private industry and military officials though a "mission compatibility evaluation process" that can take several weeks or longer to complete, depending on the complexity of the project.

The possibility of wind energy interference with military operations has been a hot-button topic in North Texas since April when Sheppard Air Force officials told a small Henrietta crowd that proposed wind projects in Clay County could cause student pilots to miss training days. If the developments in Bluegrove and Byers are completed, the officials warned, Sheppard's mission could be pulled from Wichita Falls and moved elsewhere.

Now the projects likely are bound for the DoD clearinghouse, which generally manages to broker an agreement between opposing parties. In exceptional cases, the clearinghouse will form a "mitigation response team," though in 10,400 reviews only 53 mitigation teams have been assembled.

Lt. Col. James Brindle said that of the projects where a mitigation team has been deployed, DoD objections persisted in only one case. In the other projects, either the developer or the military agreed to some corrective measures.

The number of cases being reviewed by the office has exploded since its establishment, from 502 in 2011 to 3,325 in 2015, Brindle said.

The increasing case number may be a harbinger of a new trend — in Texas and other states, legislators are moving to create buffer zones between military installations and new energy developments. That means more reviews are being sent to the clearinghouse for rulings.

Texas Sen. Donna Campbell recently pledged to file a proposal in the next legislative session that would keep bases safe from encroaching private energy development. She reportedly has teamed up with Rep. James Frank, who plans to file a measure that would place restrictions on tax abatement awards for developments in a 25-mile radius of military installations.

North Carolina's legislature is already a step ahead of the Texas efforts. The state's Senate has already approved a proposal banning wind turbine construction in large swaths of the state due to concerns of interference with military operations. The measure has not passed a House vote.

As of Friday, Clay County's wind projects were still being reviewed by a private consulting firm to determine what effect, if any, they could have on Sheppard's operations.


Source: http://www.timesrecordnews....

JUL 2 2016
http://www.windaction.org/posts/45357-mediator-for-energy-projects-hearing-more-cases-than-ever
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