May 26, 2017

Rep. Hunter aids passage of military base protection bill

By Suzanne Freeman | May 25, 2017 |

A bill to prohibit tax abatements for wind farm developments within 25 nautical miles of a military installation with an aviation mission has been approved by both the Texas House and Senate. Senate Bill 277 was expected back before the House for approval of an amendment before the legislature adjourns on Memorial Day. The bill, which does not affect wind farms already in operation, was amended to also grandfather in pending projects as well.

Known as the Military Base Protection Bill, it was championed through the voting process in the House by Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), chair of the House Committee on Calendars. Hunter has both wind farms and two Naval Air Stations in his district.

A wind farm study released by the U.S. Navy in December 2016 concluded that wind turbines could affect nearby radar systems of airports and military air stations. According to the report, wind turbines can be perceived by radar as air traffic, while a secondary, or backup radar system, would not be affected by the turbines. The negative effects of wind turbines near air traffic would have to be mitigated, the report continued.

The bill will not affect the Chapman Ranch Wind Farm currently under construction south of Corpus Christi, despite its proximity to Naval Air Stations in Kingsville and Corpus Christi. It is grandfathered in but also received approval in an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration in August 2016 and the U.S. Navy in December 2016. The Navy signed a Memorandum of Agreement concerning the turbines at Chapman Ranch that allows them to be built with mitigations.

Senate Bill 277 was written to help specifically protect the two local Naval Air Stations as well as three others in the state from encroachments from wind turbines that interfere with radar. Other NAS on the list include Shepard Air Base in Wichita Falls, which is represented by the bill’s House sponsor Rep. James Frank (R-Wichita Falls); Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, which is represented by Rep. Pancho Neverez (D-Eagle Pass); and Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, represented by Rep. Stan Lambert (R-Abilene).

“We are grateful to our delegation, especially chairman Hunter, for guiding this bill through the complicated committee process,” said Wes Hoskins, chairman of the South Texas Military Facility Task Force. “This is not just important for the Coastal Bend but for the economy of the state of Texas to maintain Texas as a leader in attracting military missions for the security of our nation.”

The bill was authored by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), chair of the Senate’s Veterans Affairs and Border Security committees. Sen. Campbell’s district includes Joint Base San Antonio, which is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Air Force 502d Air Base, Air Education and Training Command.

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