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Jones: Bill won’t affect wind farm

A bill cosponsored by U.S. Rep. Walter Jones is designed to curb construction of wind farms near military installations but will not affect the nearly completed $400 million Amazon Wind Farm US East project, a spokeswoman for the congressman said Wednesday.

“I think there’s a misnomer,” Jones spokeswoman Allison Tucker said of the legislation Jones, R-N.C., jointly introduced on Tuesday with two other congressmen. “This bill does not impact Amazon. This bill is only for future projects that have not begun at all.”

The bill was filed, however, in the wake of a recent letter from nine North Carolina state lawmakers, including the speaker of the House and Senate president, asking the incoming administration of President Donald Trump to shut down the Amazon wind farm over national security concerns.

The letter, which also was signed by 1st District Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, asks incoming Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly to shutter the nearly operational 104-turbine wind farm in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties because they claim it’s too close to the Navy’s relocatable over-the-horizon radar receiver at the Northwest Annex in Chesapeake, Virginia. The lawmakers claim the wind farm’s turbines will cause unacceptable interference with Northwest Annex’s radar.

The lawmakers sent the letter despite the Navy’s agreement in 2014 to allow the wind farm’s developer, Avangrid Renewables, to build 104 turbines in specific locations in the two counties. The agreement further requires Avangrid to study the wind farm’s operational data to verify 2014 modeling that showed interference from the turbines is within an acceptable threshold.

There are no such data yet, a Naval spokeswoman said in an interview last week. Spokesmen for the Navy also told The Associated Press that the current Amazon wind farm project is not likely to affect Northwest Annex’s mission.

Jones, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, also wrote a letter to Kelly in December, expressing concerns about the Amazon project.

Asked about the letter on Wednesday, Tucker said the point of Jones’ writing to Kelly was to ask him to “double-check that windmills such as this are not going to effect our radars, whether it be land, air or sea.”

“It was not a shut-it-down kind of thing,” she said.

On Tuesday, Jones, along with U.S. Reps. Chris Collins, R-New York, and Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, introduced the “Protection of Military Airfields from Wind Turbine Encroachment Act,” a measure that denies federal wind production tax credits to any wind energy project that builds turbines within a 50-mile radius of a military installation.

According to Jones’ office, a companion bill to the House bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

In prepared remarks, Jones said Tuesday the bill is designed to prioritize the safety of military personnel, as well as maintain the operational integrity of the nation’s military installations.

“Taxpayers have made significant investments in our military facilities in order to provide for our national defense,” Jones said. “Those investments and that mission must take precedence.”

Tucker said the legislation isn’t anti-wind energy.

“Congressman Jones supports energy diversity. He isn’t against wind farms,” she said. “It (the reason for the bill) was really just some concerns that had been brought to his attention on the potential risks that wind farms can pose on military bases and their radars.”

She said Jones just wants to ensure the military isn’t negatively affected by wind energy projects. He’s also concerned about giving tax credits to wind energy projects, she added.

“Congressman Jones has never wanted the taxpayer to subsidize energy of any form,” Tucker said.

Staff Writer Jon Hawley contributed to this report.