State Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, defended his call to shut down the Amazon Wind Farm US East, arguing in an email Friday that he was putting the military’s interests ahead of “taxpayer-subsidized wind projects.”
Cook is one of 10 lawmakers, plus a retired Marine major general, to call this week for the administration of President-elect Donald Trump to shut down the 104-turbine wind farm in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties. They argue the turbines will generate interference in long-range radar activities at the Navy’s Northwest Annex in Chesapeake. They wrote the wind farm should be permanently shut down or, barring that, turbines that cause more than 5-percent signal loss should be shut down until problems with them can be fixed.
In an email late Friday, Cook shared a 2011 letter from Susan Gibson, regional environmental coordinator for the Department of Defense, to Pasquotank County Commissioner Lloyd Griffin that explained the importance of “relocatable over the horizon radar,” or ROTHR, as the only wide-area surveillance network available to the US Southern Command in tracking drug traffickers into the US from the Caribbean and Central and South America. That letter also states concerns that wind farms’ rotating blades will confuse the radar system and possibly mask true targets. The letter does not ask for the Amazon project to not be built, but did ask commissioners to delay approval of a conditional use permit until a “comprehensive hazard assessment” could be done later in 2011.
DOD did not allow the project to go forward until November 2014, at which time the developer, Avangrid Renewables, and the military agreed to allow the farm go forward. According to a Naval spokeswoman, DOD allowed the project to go forward based on project-specific modeling, and to study the farm, once in operation, to verify that modeling.
Despite the military’s openness to the project, Cook stood by his call for it to be shut down. North Carolina needs to protect its military installations if military investment is to continue to grow in the state, he argued.
“Make no mistake, if we fail to fully protect our military installations, decision-makers in Washington could award them to states that will, and our local communities will be left picking up the pieces,” Cook said. Raising concerns about the Amazon and other wind farms, he said “taxpayer-subsidized wind projects that create few jobs for North Carolinians should not take priority over hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars that we could jeopardize if we fail to stand up for our military.”
Cook also argued the project had not gone through adequate state review, and that he pushed last legislative session to require more environmental testing and reporting. He even recommended they be compensated for their costs, he said. Notably, lawmakers’ recent letter calls for the company to be compensated for “actual documented costs to date,” but not future profits.
Cook also alluded to Avangrid opposing an administrative suit filed by a Perquimans couple last year; the couple’s suit challenged a Department of Environmental Quality determination that state law exempted the project from new permitting requirements enacted late in the project’s review process. Critics of that law contended that new permitting was duplicative and an effort to hamper or kill the project.
Though defending his effort to shut down the project, Cook did not answer several questions The Daily Advance asked in an email earlier Friday. Local officials have suggested Cook initiated the letter against the project; Cook did not respond to that. The Advance also asked if Cook had ever explicitly called for the project to be shut down before now and, if not, why he waited so long to make that call, given he’s citing years-old documents.
Cook also did not address local officials’ criticism that Cook signed onto the letter without discussing it with them – or that lawmakers were sending a bad signal to developers by trying to shut down a permitted, all but completed project.
Cook also did not address whether John Droz, a prominent wind opponent, played a role in the letter. Droz has strongly supported the letter in recent correspondence.
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