New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins has proposed a bill that would prevent wind projects near military bases from obtaining tax credits. Specifically, Congressman Collins cites “significant concerns from local residents and lawmakers” for an Apex Clean Energy project in western New York.
The Protection of Military Airfields from Wind Turbine Encroachment Act
Complementing a companion bill from Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, Collins has rolled out the “Protection of Military Airfields from Wind Turbine Encroachment Act.” According to a press release from Congressman Collins, the legislation would mandate that any wind projects being built “within a 40-mile radius of a military installation” are not eligible for production tax credits.
According to the congressman, Apex’s 200 MW Lighthouse Wind project — which the company expects to be completed in 2019 — could threaten the future of the nearby Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, which “employs over 2,600 people and contributes over $200 million a year to western New York’s economy,” he says. He continues, “I cannot condone any activity which puts the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station’s future operations and viability at risk.”
Apex Statement to North American Windpower
Apex explains in a statement to North American Windpower that it has been diligently working with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) “to ensure [its] wind energy facilities do not adversely impact military missions.”
Apex says, “Related to Lighthouse Wind, we have been consulting with the Department of Defense and Niagara Falls Air Force Reserve Station regularly to ensure that any concerns regarding the base’s operations are resolved before the project is built.” They also added that the project would be situation more than 25 miles from the military base.
According the developer, it has even received a letter from the DoD Siting Clearinghouse in which the agency confirmed that Lighthouse Wind is “unlikely to impact military testing or training operations in the area.” As a result, Apex believes it is “appropriate to trust the expertise of the DoD Siting Clearinghouse, as well as that of local military experts and advisors, to assess the potential risk of wind energy projects to their own bases.”
Issues of Military Readiness
However, town supervisor for Sumerset, New York Dan Engert claims that the DoD has been “increasingly engaged to express either reservations or objections to potential wind projects across the country on the basis of military readiness issues and conflicts with military radar systems,” he explains in a press release. Engert further explains, “The Lighthouse Wind project in Somerset is very poorly sited for a number of reasons, and I do not think it’s in our government’s best interest to expand wind energy at the expense of military readiness.”
The congressman, who adds that he will “do everything in [his] power to ensure the viability of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station,” states that the U.S.’ military installations are “crucial to the security of our nation.” He contends, “This legislation ensures that military installations like the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station can fully operate without potential interference from wind turbines, some of which can be as tall as 600 feet.”
Apex, however, states it has not yet chosen the turbines for the project, which is still in a pre-application phase. Additionally, the developer points out that structures standing more than 200 feet tall in the U.S. are “required to undertake a rigorous system of review by the DoD and FAA” before construction can commence.
Apex adds, “When this final [project] proposal is made, the DoD and [Federal Aviation Administration] will have the chance to weigh in again with their approvals through these review systems.”
President of Save Ontario Shores Pamela Atwater, voicing support for Collins’ proposed bill, says in a statement that her group “pledges its full support” for the bill and “look[s] forward to its enactment.” Atwater adds, “We are grateful to Congressman Collins for taking the initiative to propose legislation that will work to protect the future of our air base and the thousands of families and workers who rely on its continued operation.”
However, Apex maintains that the DoD does, indeed, know what is is doing: “We believe our professional national security experts are doing their duty and acting in the best interest of our nation, the communities in which they operate, and our armed forces.”
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