WASHINGTON, DC, September 5, 2006 (ENS) – The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) announced last week that it would miss a legal deadline in a suit that alleges the department is preventing wind farm construction across the nation. The department had until August 28 to file their response to the Sierra Club’s claim that it has created a virtual moratorium on the construction of new wind power plants by failing to complete a study of windmills’ impact on radar by Congressionally-mandated.
The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2006 contained an provision requiring the Pentagon to complete a study on the effect of windmills on military readiness and the operation of military radar installations by May 8, 2006.
That study was not completed and in June the Sierra Club filed suit – in the meantime, DOD, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Aviation Administration have halted wind farm construction “within radar line of sight” of any military radar, effectively stopping construction in regions of the country.
Lawyers for the Pentagon informed the Sierra Club that they would be unable to meet the August deadline for their answer explaining why they have been unable to complete their study.
“Any other defendant in federal court has just 20 days to answer a complaint,” said David Bookbinder, senior Washington attorney for Sierra Club. “But the rules are different for the federal government, giving them 60 days – three times longer than anyone else. Apparently even that is not enough for DOD.”
In order to operate and construct a windmill in the U.S., an energy developer must obtain a notice from the FAA stating that the installation is not a hazard to air navigation.
The FAA is currently interpreting DOD’s “Interim Windmill Policy” to mean that it cannot approve any wind projects “within radar line of sight.”
According to the Sierra Club, since much of the nation and almost all of the Midwest is “within radar line of sight,” this policy has a sweeping effect and has essentially created a de facto moratorium on new wind power projects.
“This would be funny if the impact wasn’t that Americans are being forced to wait even longer for cleaner, cheaper wind power,” said Kristin Henry, staff attorney with the Sierra Club. “I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that they’re dragging their feet to respond, given that foot-dragging is the whole reason this happened in the first place.”
Federal officials have declined to reveal how many wind projects have been blocked from construction, but, according to media reports, at least 15 wind farm proposals in the Midwest have been shut down so far.
The list of stalled projects includes one outside Bloomington, Illinois, which would have been the nation’s largest source of wind energy, generating enough electricity to power 120,000 homes in the Chicago area.
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