State Sen. Bill Cook and the leaders of the General Assembly are asking the incoming Trump administration to kill the almost-operational Amazon Wind Farm US East.
In a letter that House Speaker Tim Moore’s office shared Thursday, the speaker, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, eight other lawmakers, including Cook, R-Beaufort, and retired Marine Maj. Gen. Robert Dickerson wrote a letter to President-elect Donald Trump’s transition headquarters asking that the wind farm in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties be shut down. They claim the wind farm will interfere with long-range radar at the Navy’s Northwest Annex in Chesapeake, Virginia, and thus represents a national security threat.
Officials with Avangrid Renewables, the wind farm’s owner, rejected those claims in interviews Thursday. Project developer Craig Poff said the company worked with the military for years on the project, and it would not have been built if it jeopardized military activities. The Federal Aviation Administration reviewed the project in consultation with the U.S. Department of Defense Siting Clearinghouse, he said.
Notably, in response to military concerns, the project was scaled down from 150 turbines to 104, and, once operational, turbines will be studied further to see if the project can expand.
Paul Copleman, also with Avangrid, noted the lawmakers are asking Trump to block business rather than support it.
“This effort seems to fly in the face of the incoming administration’s desire for less regulation,” Copleman said.
He added the company will argue to lawmakers the project went through a “rigorous” and “thorough” process.
He also defended the project as a major economic boon to Pasquotank and Perquimans counties. Company officials have said the project provided more than 200 temporary construction jobs, supported around 30 local businesses, provides land lease payments to local residents and will be one of Pasquotank and Perquimans’ largest property taxpayers even after tax breaks the counties have granted.
Disputing claims the wind farm is safe, the lawmakers’ letter argues a government-funded study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found wind turbines within 28 miles of a relocatable over-the-horizon radar receiver “would almost certainly seriously degrade the ROTHR’s performance.” All of the wind farm’s turbines are within 28 miles of the Northwest Annex, the letter states.
State Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, is not one of the letter’s signatories. To the contrary, he called the letter “infuriating” and an example of “backroom politics” that he will oppose.
“It’s unconscionable,” Steinburg said. “I will fight this tooth and nail.”
Steinburg also said he and local officials were “kept in the dark” about the letter, despite the wind farm’s importance to local economies.
“Not only was there no conversation with them, there was no conversation with me,” Steinburg said.
Steinburg also said the letter was an apparent attempt to circumvent support for wind power in the House. House members have regularly defeated Senate proposals to undermine renewable energy measures, he said.
Steinburg also described arguments that the wind farm would negatively affect the military as a “straw man.” A few lawmakers often claim the project will affect military installations, but they never produce any evidence or military witnesses, he said.
Given Avangrid went through and received all proper state and federal permits, Steinburg also warned lawmakers were sending a bad signal about doing business in North Carolina.
“We cannot be conducting business this way, as someone backing out on their word,” he said.
Cook did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Pasquotank County officials said they were unfamiliar with the letter on Thursday, with the exception of Republican County Commissioner Frankie Meads. He mentioned it briefly during commissioners’ regular meeting on Wednesday.
Commissioner Jeff Dixon, a Democrat, scoffed at the letter Wednesday night as “old news,” and defended the wind farm as a done deal.
Though local officials generally support wind projects, Some Perquimans and Pasquotank residents oppose them. Perquimans residents, including farmer Tommy Harrell, are fighting to kill Apex Clean Energy’s proposed wind farm along the Perquimans-Chowan border.
Harrell welcomed the lawmakers’ move.
“I have heard about it and I sent emails encouraging the shutdown,” Harrell said. “The project affects the security of our nation with the way it could affect the radar in Southeastern Virginia.”
Perquimans Weekly Editor Peter Williams contributed to this report.
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