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Oklahoma chamber wants military to have say in some wind farms

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: March 18, 2017

ALTUS, Okla. — Wind farms constructed near military installations can disrupt low-level flying routes used for aircrew training, the Altus Chamber of Commerce says in letters asking Oklahoma lawmakers to give a state military planning commission the ability to approve the location of some turbines.

The chamber sent letters to Senate Pro Tempore Mike Schulz and Rep. Charles Ortega, both from Altus, saying that the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission should have siting approval for wind farms near military installations, The Oklahoman reported.

"We want to provide this kind of protection to our military assets, but we don't want to be seen as working against the wind industry," said chamber President and CEO Brian Bush.

He said officials at Altus Air Force Base and economic developers already have informal discussions with wind representatives about the location of turbines. The chamber's proposal would formalize that under the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission, which includes representatives from every military installation in the state.

A spokesman for Schulz deferred comment to Altus Air Force Base. Ortega could not be reached for comment by the newspaper.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, has filed legislation that would provide a 30-mile turbine buffer around military airfields nationwide.

The American Wind Energy Association says more than a third of current wind turbines are within 50 miles of a military exclusion zone proposed by other federal legislation.

"These arbitrary buffer zones unnecessarily put at risk tens of billions of dollars of private investment in rural America, restrict the energy development activities of private companies, prohibit private citizens from leasing their land for wind turbines, and do nothing to enhance national security," the association said in a recent fact sheet.

Jeff Clark, president of The Wind Coalition, said a Defense Department clearinghouse that coordinates planning for energy infrastructure projects is the best place to address wind farms near military installations.

"As great as wind is for communities, the military base and the mission has to be the first priority," he said. "The clearinghouse isn't set up to balance the needs of the developer and the military; it's set up to protect the military base."
 

A wind farm in rural Pennsylvania.
JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

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