RALEIGH – Sen. Norman Sanderson has pitched in to support a bill lawmakers say will protect North Carolina military installations from encroachment from windfarms by blocking permitting for the projects.
Sen. Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow (Jones) announced the bill, The Military Operations Protection Act of 2017, in a Tuesday release, stating the measure seeks to protect installations in the eastern part of the state, ensure the jobs provided by bases and guarantee operations aren’t “compromised” by energy producing windfarms.
“It is about our responsibility to protect the investment the U.S. military has made in our state and honor our commitment to being the most military-friendly state in the country,” Sen. Brown, one of the bills’ primary sponsors said in the release.
A call to Sen. Sanderson, R-Pamlico (Carteret, Craven), also a chief sponsor on the measure, was not returned by presstime.
The legislation would establish a moratorium for accepting applications and issuing permits to onshore and offshore wind energy projects through the end of 2020.
“The purpose of this moratorium is to allow the General Assembly ample time to study the extent and scope of military operations in the State as directed in Section 4 of this act and to consider the impact of future wind energy facilities and energy infrastructure on military operations, training, and readiness,” the bill reads.
It instructs the Department of Environmental Quality and the Coastal Resources Commission to not consider any permits for such facilities, with exceptions for projects that have a written “determination of no hazard to air navigation” issued by the Federal Aviation Administration before May 17, 2013 – almost four years ago – or an application meeting state requirements submitted before the first of this year.
It does not specify the eastern portion of the state, heavy with military bases, in particular, but instead puts all of North Carolina under moratorium.
The study outlined in the bill would drag on for some time, according to the timeline established there in, with requests for proposals from firms looking to conduct the study being issued sometime before the end of the year.
The contract would be let in 2018 and deadline to submit the completed study would be the summer 2019.
“For years, lawmakers have heard concerns that military flight routes could be compromised by tall structures – including wind turbines,” Tuesday’s release reads. “… North Carolina’s military installations are heavily dependent on air missions, and failing to act could harm their viability and standing as they are considered in future Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission discussions.”
Republican aversion to wind and solar projects is nothing new in Eastern North Carolina or Carteret County.
In January 2014, county commissioners unanimously imposed their own 60-day moratorium on such projects in the face of a proposed 40-turbine wind and solar project near Newport.
At that time, there were conflicting reports on the military’s stance on such structures and their impacts, and officials with Cherry Point weren’t publicly commenting on their discussions with the project’s company, Torch Renewable Energy LLC of Houston.
Torch ultimately abandoned the project later that month, saying the county’s action to impose a stiffer tall structures ordinance effectively precluded such projects in the area.
In January, Currituck County followed those steps when opposing a solar installation, placing a 60-day moratorium on permitting solar farms, citing adverse effects, property values and aesthetics.
Proponents of such renewable energy say the coast and farmland in Eastern North Carolina provide a good habitat for sustainable projects to help drive consumers away from environmentally harmful coal, nuclear and gas dependence.
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