The Federal Aviation Administration has said that 86 proposed wind turbines south of Corpus Christi don’t pose a hazard to air navigation. That’s not the same as saying they don’t pose a hazard to military flight training, the transmission of broadcast signals, or the city’s growth. Those issues are important to the future of Corpus Christi – too important to remain unaddressed while the wind project moves forward.
Navy and city officials have raised these issues. Those officials do not have the authority to stop a wind farm. But at least their concerns should be investigated thoroughly enough to be put to rest or spelled out.
The FAA says it studied the 86 proposed turbines and decided that they don’t pose a hazard to air navigation as long as they are marked properly with paint and lighting. The turbines were studied individually, according to the FAA. That sounds impressively thorough.
Still, it’s one thing for experienced pilots to fly in and out of Corpus Christi International Airport safely and another for new pilots from Naval Air Station Corpus Christi to undergo primary training in the vicinity of wind farms. The Navy is awaiting a study that will look at the effects of multiple wind turbines rather than 86 turbines considered individually.
The Navy’s top air training official has said not enough is known about wind farms’ effect on training to say it’s safe. If the Navy finds itself having to make compromises to accommodate multiple wind turbines, chances are it’ll look for venues where fewer compromises need to be made. The Navy base has been in operation continuously since 1941. It is credited with doubling the city’s size between 1940 and 1950 and remains a major source of income. Its departure would be devastating.
The FAA’s declaration, reported last week, is great news for the wind energy developer, Apex Clean Energy, supporters of wind energy as one of the answers to climate change, and the owners of Chapman Ranch who would collect royalty income. It’s a boost for the ranch owners’ property rights – an issue dear to Texans. But if a wind farm chases off the Navy or stymies the development of neighboring property, then those property rights will have come at huge expense to countless others’ rights. Those rights deserve some respect, too.
A lack of oversight or recourse for local authorities has been a hallmark of wind energy development. The federal government’s enthusiasm for emissions-free cleanliness has caused it to overlook wind turbines’ huge construction footprint and its negative impacts on neighbors. The Legislature is studying the issue. On the one hand, it’s about time the state asserted itself. On the other, we’d sure like to see this play out without it being a Texas tea party-vs.-Obama administration thing. The noise would be more deafening than aircraft engines.
The community deserves answers to too many unanswered questions, and needs to be able to hear them. The city has not withdrawn its objection to the wind farm project – and shouldn’t until satisfactory answers are forthcoming.
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