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Officials in wind counties say they still weren't consulted about wind farm bill

Once again, officials in eastern North Carolina say they were not consulted about a just-filed bill that could halt a multi-million dollar project in its tracks.

Called the "Military Base Protection Act," the wind farm-regulating bill filed last week is being called “compromise legislation” by its primary author, Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow).

But leaders in Chowan County say it's anything but - and that it could cost them potential tax dollars.

“Nobody’s approached us at all about it, about how we felt,” says Chowan County Manager Kevin Howard. “It’s frustrating we weren’t asked.”

"It's a tremendous over-reach," adds Sen. Bob Steinburg, whose jurisdiction includes Chowan County.

Apex Clean Energy, the Virginia firm planning to build a farm in Chowan County, says the measure would force the complete termination of their plans.

“This legislation boils down to a permanent wind energy ban for Eastern North Carolina,” said Apex spokeswoman Cat Mosley in an email. “Once again, this is an anti-business move shrouded as a pro-military measure.”

The project - if built - is expected to generate between $1.5 million and $2 million in property taxes for the county,... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Once again, officials in eastern North Carolina say they were not consulted about a just-filed bill that could halt a multi-million dollar project in its tracks.

Called the "Military Base Protection Act," the wind farm-regulating bill filed last week is being called “compromise legislation” by its primary author, Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow).

But leaders in Chowan County say it's anything but - and that it could cost them potential tax dollars.

“Nobody’s approached us at all about it, about how we felt,” says Chowan County Manager Kevin Howard. “It’s frustrating we weren’t asked.”

"It's a tremendous over-reach," adds Sen. Bob Steinburg, whose jurisdiction includes Chowan County.

Apex Clean Energy, the Virginia firm planning to build a farm in Chowan County, says the measure would force the complete termination of their plans.

“This legislation boils down to a permanent wind energy ban for Eastern North Carolina,” said Apex spokeswoman Cat Mosley in an email. “Once again, this is an anti-business move shrouded as a pro-military measure.” 

The project - if built - is expected to generate between $1.5 million and $2 million in property taxes for the county, making it Chowan County's largest taxpayer, says Howard.

“It’s a tremendous economic opportunity for them to get an infusion of revenue that they, under almost any other circumstances, would be hard-pressed to duplicate,” Steinburg adds.

The county has yet to receive any revenue for the project, though Howard confirms it paid nearly $37,000 for consultants during the permitting process - an amount reimbursed by Apex.

The Chowan County project had already been delayed by a wind moratorium – also pushed forward by Brown without local consultation, public records show – that only just expired at the end of 2018. 

Brown, who didn’t return requests to comment on the bill this time around, said in an interview last year that he’d had conversations with military officers about their fears over wind turbines. At the time, he declined to name those sources. 

The moratorium he put in place called for a study of the risks associated with wind mills in zones used by the Department of Defense for training exercises. And in a press release last week, he cited a statewide map that came out of the study “identifying areas in which tall structures pose a ‘high risk [of] degrading safety and the military’s ability to perform aviation training” as the driver for the latest legislation.

Wind farms could be built outside of those areas, according to the bill.

But industry insiders say areas most conducive to wind farms are within those restricted areas.

In his release, Brown cited figures from the North Carolina Military Business Center (who, according to its executive director Scott Dorney, has not taken a position on wind farm policy and was not consulted about the bill) that show Department of Defense spending accounts for 12 percent of Gross Domestic Product in the state. Brown stated in the release that “constructing obstacles that degrade the military’s ability to conduct training exercises puts our military bases at risk of closure during the next BRAC proceeding.” 

Steinburg, however, calls the bill's motives "hubris."

“The state of North Carolina does not need to be dictating policy to the United States Department of Defense,” he says. “I think it’s hubris on the part of some to think that they know more about this than the United States Department of Defense… and I’m going to fight tooth and nail to make sure the bill doesn’t leave the Senate.”

Department of Defense sign off is already required before a project can be built – including the wind farm proposed for Chowan County.

Of the map itself, Adam Forrer of the Southeastern Wind Coalition, says it was never intended “to be a one stop shop for where you can and cannot build.” It’s meant as a resource, and he again points out that the Department of Defense already signs off on projects before they are built. 

Forrer fears that, even if the bill is struck down before becoming law, it will further damage the industry’s perception of the state. And that could have future projects shying from investing in North Carolina, he says.

“There’s a lot of regulatory uncertainty in North Carolina with the two-year moratorium that just expired,” he says. “When you’re looking to build multi-million dollar projects, regulatory certainty is very important.”

Right now there's just one utility-scale wind farm spinning in the state, the Amazon wind farm near Elizabeth City.


Source: https://www.bizjournals.com...

APR 4 2019
http://www.windaction.org/posts/49719-officials-in-wind-counties-say-they-still-weren-t-consulted-about-wind-farm-bill
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