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New Bill Could Prevent Wind Energy Projects Near Military Bases

If passed, the law would prevent renewable energy developers from using tax reliefs currently offered within 40 miles of a military field.

(TNS) -- Congress is reviewing a bill that aims to prohibit federal tax relief for wind energy projects located within 40 miles of an active military air base.

The Protection of Military Airfields from Wind Turbine Encroachment Act would, if signed into law, incorporate revisions to the Internal Revenue Code that will prevent wind energy developers from pursuing renewable electricity production credit and energy credits, both of which provide tax relief, for projects within tens of miles from military airfields. The bill was introduced Nov. 29.

The House version of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Christopher C. Collins, R-Clarence, would prohibit awarding these tax benefits to small wind energy properties within a 40-mile radius of active military airfields and air bases and any air traffic control radar site, weather radar site or aircraft navigation aid owned by the Department of Defense.

“Anything that helps take the tax benefits of credits away from wind developers is a plus,” said Robert E. Ashodian, an informational spokesperson for the Coalition for the Preservation of the Golden Crescent and 1000 Islands Region.

Mr. Collins proposed the bill with specific concern for Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, as Apex Clean Energy plans to construct a 70-turbine wind farm throughout Niagara County.

The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, proposes a 30-mile radius.

There are seven wind projects still in development within a 40-mile radius of Fort Drum. Military officials at Fort Drum have previously told the Times that large-scale wind farms could negatively affect instruments used within the post’s radar coverage area and at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield.

Tom Flanagin, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, said she will review the bill with colleagues, Fort Drum officials and constituents.

“(Ms. Stefanik) is a supporter of renewable energy but also deeply understands the need to ensure our military’s readiness and training capabilities at installations such as Fort Drum,” Mr. Flanagin said.

Julie A. Halpin, Fort Drum spokeswoman, said in an email that post officials had not spoken to Mr. Collins about his proposed bill.

However, she added that “we remain very interested in any development that has the potential to impact our ability to train and deploy soldiers,” including turbines near Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield and training areas around the post.

Several Jefferson County town supervisors support the bill and have encouraged federal lawmakers to pass it into law.

Clayton Supervisor David M. Storandt Jr. and Orleans Supervisor Kevin R. Rarick said that enacting the bill would ensure the safety and viability of military base operations at Fort Drum from potential impacts of wind energy facilities such as Apex Clean Energy’s Galloo Island Wind farm and Atlantic Wind LLC’s Horse Creek Wind Farm.

Atlantic Wind wants to build 60 to 72 turbines for its 250-megawatt project, in the towns of Clayton, Orleans, Brownville and Lyme. “We need to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people and this base,” Mr. Rarick said.

Henderson Town Supervisor John J. Culkin also said that prohibiting tax relief for wind energy facilities within 40 miles of a military base would be “safer” than 30 miles.

“Wind turbines are not economically viable unless they receive tax breaks or other publicly funded support,” he said. “I think it’s a good bill.”

Apex Clean Energy intends to construct 32 turbines, each 574 feet tall, and a 30-mile underwater transmission cable from Galloo Island to a National Grid substation in Oswego for its 110.4-megawatt project. Galloo Island is located 38½ miles from Fort Drum’s Wheeler Sack Air Base, and may be closer to radar and communication installations that power it.

Cat C. Mosley, public affairs manager for Apex Clean Energy, said the DOD Siting Clearinghouse conducted a preliminary review of the developer’s 110.4-megawatt project and “did not flag anything.” The developer will pursue any available tax credits when the project is operational, Ms. Mosley said, adding that the federal production tax credit will phase out in three years.

“We have been consulting with the Department of Defense and Fort Drum to ensure that any impacts to base operations are avoided,” she said. “There is abundant evidence that military bases and wind farms can and do co-exist. Nearly a fifth of current operating wind farms are within 25 miles of military installations and could not have been built if this type of blanket approach is enacted.”

In addition to its Horse Creek Wind Farm, Atlantic Wind plans to build its 40-turbine Deer River Wind Farm within 40 miles of Fort Drum in the towns of Pinckney, Harrisburg and Montague. Avangrid Renewables, Atlantic Wind’s parent company, plans to build two wind farms that are close to Fort Drum: Mad River Wind Farm in the towns of Worth and Redfield, Oswego County, and Roaring Brook Wind Farm in the town of Martinsburg.

“We strongly support responsible, effective actions to identify and address the potential conflicts of wind farms, airspaces and radar,” said Paul N. Copleman, a communications manager for Avangrid Renewables.

Fort Drum is halfway through conducting its joint land-use study with the Development Authority of the North Country. The two-year study, which began last year, seeks to address potential encroachment issues with Fort Drum, such as the siting of energy projects, airspace and land restrictions, noise concerns, air quality and housing availability. In total, the study analyzes 25 compatibility factors.

Hartley Bonisteel-Schweitzer, a DANC community planner working as a liaison between Fort Drum and surrounding communities, said the legislation would likely not affect the study’s progress, including the energy development component, were it to become a law.

©2017 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.