Another trip to Austin by South Texas military support groups petitioning the Legislature for help in limiting development of wind farms within close proximity to our military bases and another opportunity to witness the influence of the wind industry on our Texas legislators.
Tuesday’s hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee included testimony by another military base leader, in uniform, asking for help in limiting development of a wind farm. Lt Col. Matthew Manning, director of operations at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls spoke in support of House Bill 445 that would limit wind developers from receiving Chapter 313 tax credits if they planned to construct a wind farm within 34.5 miles of a Texas military base.
Col. Manning is the latest in a litany of Texas military leaders appearing before the state Legislature asking for help. Capt. Mark McLaughlin, former commanding officer at Naval Air Station Kingsville, started the parade when in 2011 he appeared numerous times before various committees pointing out the concern he had with wind farm developments around his base.
Capt. McLaughlin was joined by the commanding officer from Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, who happened to be the chair of the Texas Commanders Council, asking for help with wind farm encroachment – in 2011.
Capt. McLaughlin was back in 2013, but the answer was the same from the Legislature – “We love the military but not enough to provide some protection for your bases.”
Col. Greg Maisel, USMC retired aviator with a boatload of credibility, also testified about concerns with wind farm encroachment at our local bases – especially with the potential impact to the precision approach radar at NAS Kingsville, which is a critical training component in teaching a student to land on an aircraft carrier.
Over the years I have witnessed leadership from the Navy, Air Force and even a major general from the Texas Air National Guard ask the Legislature for help in limiting wind farm encroachment – all trumped by the influence of the wind industry.
Kingsville Mayor Sam Fugate, a trial lawyer by day, pointed out years ago that the simple fact the wind industry talks about mitigation as an answer to the problem proves there is a problem.
Then there was the testimony of Dave Belote, the former director of the Department of Defense Clearing House, whose responsibility it was to evaluate wind farm proposals near military bases. Belote, known during his DOD days as “Never saw a wind farm I didn’t like Belote,” left DOD to take a job with APEX Wind Energy Company. Belote approved the Riviera Wind Farm (10 miles south of NAS Kingsville) and the Petronila Wind Farm (15 miles northeast of NAS Kingsville) while DOD Clearing House Director and later as an employee of APEX helped negotiate the Memorandum of Agreement for the APEX Wind Farm west of Corpus Christi.
Rep. Drew Darby asked Belote if he thought wind farm encroachment could influence BRAC scoring and the former director of the DOD Clearing House gave a long, expert laced answer that said nothing is guaranteed in Washington, but in his opinion wind farms like ones in South Texas or crowding Sheppard AFB couldn’t be used to degrade the military value of a military base.
Excuse me, but that’s like asking the fox to evaluate the security system at the hen house.
Four consecutive legislative sessions with a multitude of bills filed, heard and some approved in committee that address wind farm encroachment at military bases and not one has made it to the House floor for a vote. Toss in the pleading of multiple active duty and retired military leaders requesting help, all to no avail.
That, my friends, is the power of the wind industry in Texas.
Dick Messbarger is Chairman Emeritus of the Texas Defense, Aviation, Aerospace Alliance and a consultant to the Kingsville Military Task Force.