RE: Comptroller’s office recommends school district not approve tax incentives (12/28)
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs is a beacon of courage and integrity in a sea of state and federal politicians mostly bent on winning re-election.
Her decision to oppose Chapter 313 funding for E. On Climate and Renewables’ Petronila Wind Farm was based on a financial comparison of economic benefits from the wind farm and Naval Air Station Kingsville. She reasoned that the Navy’s concern with electromagnetic interference from the wind turbines could jeopardize the mission at the South Texas base, and that loss was far greater than the six to eight full-time jobs created by the Petronila Wind Farm.
Reading the June 10, 2011, letter from Vice Adm. William Burke, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, the Comptroller concluded that if adequate mitigation could not be found the Navy would look at “moving some or all of NAS Kingsville’s mission to other installations.”
There is no state or federal regulatory authority over wind energy projects. The FAA rules on potential hazards, but it cannot prevent a wind farm from being built even if the FAA issues a “Notice of Presumed Hazard.”
During the last Texas legislative session we attempted to pass one of four bills filed that would have provided some protection for military bases being encroached upon by wind farms. South Texas is not the only area being affected. As of today Abilene, Fort Worth and Del Rio have all seen their bases threatened by the construction of wind turbines too close to their military installations.
McAllen Democratic state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa’s SB 1053 and Kingsville Democratic state Rep. J.M. Lozano’s HB 2083 would have required a permitting process governed by local authority. La Porte Republican state Sen. Mike Jackson’s SB 497 and El Paso Democratic state Rep. Pickett’s HB 1509 would have required notification to the military prior to construction of a wind farm within a 25 mile radius.
As anemic as the SB 497 would have been, it was vigorously opposed by the Texas Wind Industry under the leadership of their well financed lobbyist, Paul Sadler, now a candidate for U.S. Senate.
Sadler described two career military members, Navy Capt. Mark McLaughlin, Commanding Officer NAS Kingsville and Air Force Col. George Holt, Air Operations Officer at Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, in less than favorable terms. After both McLaughlin and Holt testified before the Texas House Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee about their concerns with electromagnetic interference from wind turbines on their navigational aids and asking for the state to help control encroachment around Texas military bases, Sadler told the committee “Those two guys remind me of a couple of asbestos trial lawyers.”
Sadler’s comment and lobbying efforts are not the issue. Preserving a military training installation that cannot be replicated anywhere in the continental United States and safeguarding the $3.6 billion-a-year defense industry in the Coastal Bend is.
Comptroller Combs will hear criticism from the Texas Wind Industry folks and green energy advocates, but she made the right call in recommending against the tax abatement application with Bishop ISD. Until technical mitigation is proven, it would be unwise to allow the construction of wind turbines within 25 miles of NAS Corpus Christi, NAS Kingsville and the Corpus Christi International Airport.
Dick Messbarger is executive director of the Greater Kingsville Economic Development Council.
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