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State bill to block turbines near military bases like Fort Drum moves forward

A bill blocking wind turbines around military bases is pushing forward through the state Senate.

The bill, introduced in January by Sen. Robert G. Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, prohibits the placement of wind turbines within 40 miles of an airfield or airbase under jurisdiction of any federal military department. The legislation, S1755, cleared committee this week, and is headed for the Senate floor.

“It’s vital we protect the future of bases from massive wind turbines and other wind generation structures, rather than put their operations and viability at risk of closure,” said Sen. Ortt, in a statement.

The Republican senator represents Niagara, Orleans and portions of Monroe counties, including the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

The bill initially included language prohibiting turbines near weather towers, but a spokesman for Sen. Ortt said that language will be omitted from the final bill.

Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said she supported the bill in committee in order to protect Fort Drum.

“As the state senator who represents Fort Drum, New York State’s largest single site employer, I feel it is imperative to protect the 10th Mountain Division’s home from any developments that could damage our military readiness,” she said, in an emailed statement. “Recent news reports have indicated that Washington may be considering a new round of base closures that could have huge repercussions for the north country.”

A spokesman for Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, said the senator “remains open-minded” about the bill until he reviews the final version.

The New York Senate bill is in addition to legislation at the federal level that would provide similar protections.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives each have introduced versions of the Protection of Military Airfields from Wind Turbine Encroachment Act, which would make new wind facilities located near certain military installations ineligible for the tax credits.

The Development Authority of the North Country is conducting a land-use study that will study 25 compatibility issues, including encroachment issues with energy projects like wind turbines.