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Legislators Seek to Shut Down Wind Farm

RALEIGH — A group of North Carolina legislators want to see a recently opened wind farm in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties shut down over what they say is interference with military radar.

In a letter to Gen. John Kelly, the Trump administration’s pick for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, 10 state legislators, including House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, say Amazon’s project, operated by Iberdrola Renewables, should be shut down because it could interfere with a nearby Department of Defense Relocatable Over the Horizon Radar, or ROHTR, system. The letter states that the turbines are within the 28 miles range of the radar with some as close as 14 miles.

If the Amazon Wind Farm can’t be shut down, the letter asks that the military negotiate a new contract with Amazon that gives Defense Department tighter controls over the project.

In addition to Moore and Berger, those signing the letter include Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown; House Majority Leader John Bell; coastal legislators Sen. Norm Sanderson; Sen. Bill Cook; and Reps. Chris Millis, Pat McElraft and George Cleveland. Retired Maj. Gen. Robert Dickerson, who spent 16 years based at and deployed from Camp Lejeune, also signed the letter.

An additional letter expressing similar concerns was sent to Kelly by Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C.

Rep. Bob Steinburg

Rep. Bob Steinburg

One coastal legislator not on the list of signatories was Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, whose district includes the wind farm project. Steinburg told CRO Wednesday that he would fight any move to shut down the wind farm unless he saw any solid evidence that claims in the letter were true.

Steinburg said he had raised his objections with House leaders over the letter. The push to shut down the wind farm, he said, is less about the military and more about a long-running fight against renewables in the General Assembly.

“I think there are some who are trying to set up the military as a straw man,” Steinburg said. “I have not talked with anyone from the military that has said they cannot coexist with this particular project.”

Steinburg said the wind farm went through years of review at the state, federal and local levels.

The letter blames “political correctness focus” of the Obama administration for forcing the Defense Department to accept the project. “This totally unacceptable situation came about due to the current administration’s promotion of unscientific and nonsensical ‘All of the Above’ energy sources (and renewable energy in particular) at essentially any cost,” according to the letter.

Steinburg said he faced similar arguments during the past few years and vowed to continue to defend the project and the rights of local governments to pursue appropriate renewable projects.

Sen. Bill Cook

Sen. Bill Cook

“This has very little to do about the military and everything to do with anti-renewables,” Steinburg said.

Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, said he signed the letter because he does see a conflict. Cook said he expects the Trump administration to take up the issue.

“I think they will. I think they’ll have to,” he said, adding that under the prior administration “people were afraid to speak truth to power.”

“Now I think they will speak truth to power,” Cook said.

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About the Author

Kirk Ross

Kirk Ross is a longtime North Carolina journalist in Chapel Hill. In addition to Coastal Review Online, he covers the legislature and state government for Carolina Public Press. He can be reached at kmr@rossalmanac.com