U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said a proposed Chinese-owned wind farm development in Val Verde County threatens Laughlin Air Force Base pilot training routes.
Cruz spoke about the proposed wind farm Feb. 20 during his first visit to Laughlin Air Force Base. Cruz visited the base to familiarize himself with the its training mission and to meet with local military, elected and business leaders to discuss their concerns.
After his meeting with the local officials, Cruz called the trip “very productive.”
“I think it is a critically important base for training our airmen and maintaining the ability to defend our nation, both to keep America safe here at home and also to project power abroad,” Cruz said during an interview with the Del Rio News-Herald at Laughlin’s base operations building, just off the flight line.
During his two-hour visit to the base, Cruz met with 47th Flying Training Wing Commander Col. Lee Gentile, as well as with representatives from Del Rio, including Val Verde County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr., Del Rio Mayor Bruno “Ralphy” Lozano, Del Rio Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Blanca Larson, Shannalea Taylor, a Texas Military Preparedness Commissioner; Skip Baker, chair of the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee; and Del Rio Port of Entry Director Liliana Flores.
“Much of the discussion today focused on the question of wind farms and wind farms potentially impacting air training routes. That is an issue I have been very active in leading on in the Senate,” Cruz said, noting he spent six years on the Senate’s Armed Services Committee.
“The question of wind farms threatening the ability to train our pilots is a question raised by a number of bases in Texas, but Laughlin is dealing with the distinct problem of a Chinese-owned company threatening to imperil those training routes,” Cruz said.
Stephen Lindsey, vice president of governmental and external affairs for GH America Energy, the company planning the development, said Thursday, “Over the past 14 months GH America Energy (GHAE) has engaged with a broad cross section of federal, state and local stakeholders, to include Laughlin Air Force Base, the Department of Defense, the Devils River Conservancy and elected officials at the local, state and U.S. Congressional level, to discuss the potential for wind, solar, and energy storage development within Val Verde County.”
“These engagements are ongoing and are following the established regulatory review process so as to balance the existing land uses while also allowing for the co-existence of these proposed development projects, which would positively contribute to the local economy through job creation and tax revenue generation, while also helping to meet the states growing demand for energy generation,” Lindsey said.
“GH America Energy is and will continue to proactively work with all stakeholders to address project impacts to existing land uses within Val Verde County, namely Laughlin Air Force Base, and is committed to continued open dialog and transparent engagement,” he added.
Lindsey confirmed to the Del Rio News-Herald that the Chinese company Guanghui Energy Co. LTD is the parent company of GH America Energy.
Cruz said local concerns about the proposed new wind farm touch on broader, global issues.
“China is, without question, America’s most significant long-term geopolitical rival. China has demonstrated a willingness to invest billions of dollars expanding its surveillance state, its offensive military capability and its economic muscle, and in the Senate, I have worked hard to focus our national security and foreign policy efforts on constraining the hostile intentions of China,” he added.
Cruz said he has been working with Del Rio leadership about “dealing with the wind farm threat.”
“My team will continue working to do that,” he added.
Cruz said in other parts of Texas, the placement of wind farms constitutes a delicate balancing act between landowner rights and the impacts wind farms have on the areas where they are sited.
“Every year, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I have authored a series of amendments that have been adopted and passed into law, and one area that I previously had legislative success in the NDAA concerns wind farms and setting up the clearinghouse process. In other parts of the state, we’re dealing with conflicting stakeholders, where those seeking to erect the wind farms are themselves Texans with economic interests in developing energy, and those are legitimate interests, and so how one protects those landowners rights but at the same time ensures the ability to train our pilots and maintain readiness is a difficult and complicated balancing process,” Cruz said.
He said over the last few years he has successfully passed into law a series of incremental legislative provisions.
“Laughlin is facing a different threat because it’s a Chinese company that is seeking to erect these wind farms, and China’s national security interests are directly contrary to the United States’ national security interests. There is, relatedly, a serious concern with surveillance. China has invested heavily in expanding its ability to engage in surveillance and to gather intelligence.
“For example, Huawei, (a company) owned by the Chinese government, is nothing more than an arm of the Chinese military engaged in surveillance, and I have been active for some time in pressing back against Huawei having any role in the U.S. telecom infrastructure, but also globally pressing back against the role of Huawei having a role in the development of 5G because what China is doing is going to our friends, going to our allies, and offering below-cost equipment, which can be incredibly enticing, to get telecom infrastructure for dramatically below market value.
“But the reason China is doing it, is precisely to get the surveillance capability to monitor the communications within our allies. Sadly, in recent weeks, the United Kingdom made, I think, a foolish decision to rely on Huawei for part of its civilian telecom infrastructure. I think that was a serious mistake. We have pressed back on the British and urged them energetically not to do so, and I’ll continue pressing,” Cruz said.
“With regard to Del Rio, these Chinese towers, if constructed, pose a threat not only to air training, but also of potential security vulnerabilities, and both of those are serious concerns. I have been working and look forward to continue working with local leaders here to prevent those threats,” Cruz added.
Of the prospective development, Lindsey said, “GH America Energy welcomes the opportunity to engage with Sen. Cruz’s office to address any of his concerns.”