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Wind power moratorium clears Senate

Raleigh, N.C. – A three-year ban on new wind farms throughout much of eastern North Carolina cleared the Senate Wednesday on a divided vote.

Sponsors said, much as they did last week, that they hope to remove the moratorium language from the bill before it’s final. But Senate Bill 377 moved from the Senate to the House with the moratorium language intact and would ban windmills in wide swaths of the state to protect corridors military pilots use for training.

The bill has been pitched as a way to protect North Carolina’s military bases from potential closure or mission losses, and at least one commander has asked lawmakers to protect the “status quo” on the issue.

This issue has been Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown’s baby, but with Brown, R-Onslow, focused on state budget negotiations, Sen. Jim Perry, R-Lenoir, has been the Senate point man on the wind farm ban.

Perry said Wednesday that House and Senate negotiators and the wind industry are zeroing in on a compromise that will get rid of the moratorium, but he asked his colleagues in the Senate to approve the bill for now as is.

They did, 25-19, and the measure heads to the House for more debate.

Perry said after session that he expects the bill to come back to the Senate with a “more robust permitting process” for wind farms rather than the moratorium.

That process would let military commanders designate civilian representatives who participate in siting decisions, he said.

Moving the bill forward in the mean time is “not a beautiful thing,” Perry said, “but we all feel comfortable … with how it will end up.”