It was all smiles in the Nueces County Courthouse Friday as officials praised the passage of a state law protecting military aviation bases from wind turbine encroachment, but it wasn’t always that way.
South Texas officials left a meeting in the Pentagon last month worried about the future of the military flight operations in Texas.
That fear was especially caustic for Corpus Christi and Kingsville where military bases are both economic and cultural backbones.
Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal and Wes Hoskins, chairman of the South Texas Military Facility Task Force, recalled being told if Senate Bill 277, or something substantially similar didn’t pass, the bases would likely be candidates for closure in the next few years.
Hoskins said federal officials told them, “encroachment is the No. 1 issue in the nation (facing military installations), and Texas is in trouble.”
Urgent calls were sent to state leaders in Austin, and within weeks the Senate Bill 277 was approved. Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law Thursday evening.
The bill prohibits tax credits from going to wind farms within a 25-mile radius of a military aviation facility. Studies have shown the tall turbines can affect radar needed for flight, and that concern is particularly strong when student pilots are learning to fly.
Wind farm projects that are already being developed or already exist are exempted from the bill, and planned expansions of those projects are not subject to the rules, which go into effect in September.
“Now the Pentagon will see Texas as the most pro-military state in the country,” Lozano said.
Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb praised the work of the state and regional leaders and called it a critical victory for the city.
“We want to do everything we can to keep our training at NAS-Corpus Christi and NAS-Kingsville and keep our pilots safe,” McComb said. “And from an economics standpoint I don’t think Corpus Christi ever wants to experience life without our naval air station.”
Like other leaders, McComb said the next round of base realignment and closure, or BRAC, could threaten the bases if nothing was done about wind turbine development near or on training flight paths.
Naval Station Ingleside was closed during a past round of closure, and President Donald Trump has indicated in his proposed budget that the next round is scheduled for 2021.
“We want every arrow possible in our quiver to protect our bases from closure,” McComb said.
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