AUSTIN – Legislation hailed by officials near several Texas military aviation installations because it can help protect them from the encroachment of wind farm development was sent to the governor’s office Sunday.
The House and the Senate both signed off on Senate Bill 277, which limits local governments’ ability to grant tax breaks to projects within 25 miles of bases where flight training takes place.
State Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, the House sponsor of the bill, said the legislation came in part in response to a renewable energy project planned within 25 near Sheppard Air Force Base, a training installation in his district. The base is home to the 80th Flying Training Wing and the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program, the world’s only internationally manned and operated military flying training program.
It also affects up to 15 military installations in Texas, including those near Corpus Christi, Kingsville, Abilene, El Paso and possibly San Angelo. The measure does not affect existing wind energy operations near the bases, but continued development could leave the facilities vulnerable when the next round of base-closing comes, backers of the legislation said.
“Today is a victory for Texas military installations and for pilot training in South Texas,” said Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb.
Mayor Stephen Santellana of Wichita Falls said he was gratified that lawmakers in both parties from the disparate regions of Texas worked together on the legislation with statewide implications.
“Our military training routes are now protected and it could not have been done without the tremendous teamwork of all involved,” Santellana said.
Gov. Greg Abbott has not state a position on the bill but he’s been generally supportive of efforts boosting Texas military facilities.