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UPDATE: Collins introduces legislation to blow back wind turbines

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Wed, Nov 30th 2016 02:35 pm

Congressman Chris Collins, R-NY-27, has introduced legislation that would curb the installation of wind turbines in close proximity to military installations, such as the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station in Niagara Falls.

Recently, Apex Clean Energy proposed a plan to build 70 propeller turbines amid farms and towns throughout Niagara County. The impact this plan may have on the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station has raised significant concerns from local residents and lawmakers.

"I cannot condone any activity which puts the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station's future operations and viability at risk," Collins said. "This air base employs over 2,600 people and contributes over $200 million a year to Western New York's economy. Massive wind turbines built in such close proximity to military installations, such as the ones being proposed in Western New York, can negatively impact a base's potential new missions and its future operations. I will do everything in my power to ensure the viability of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station."

Collins introduced the Protection of Military Airfields from Wind Turbine Encroachment Act in an effort to ensure any new wind turbines located within a 40-mile radius of a military installation will be deemed ineligible for renewable energy tax credits. Full text of the legislation can be read here: http://chriscollins.house.gov/sites/chriscollins.house.gov/files/Scanned%20from%20a%20Xerox%20multifunction%20device001.pdf. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

"Our military installations are crucial to the security of our nation," Collins said. "This legislation ensures that military installations like the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station can fully operate without potential interference from wind turbines, some of which can be as tall as 600 feet."

"The Department of Defense has been increasingly engaged to express either reservations or objections to potential wind projects across the country, on the basis of military readiness issues and conflicts with military radar systems," said Dan Engert, Somerset town supervisor. "The Lighthouse Wind project in Somerset is very poorly sited for a number of reasons, and I do not think it's in our government's best interest to expand wind energy at the expense of military readiness. I am very grateful that Congressman Collins and Sen. Cornyn recognize this impact and have introduced legislation in both chambers that will force corporate wind developers to site projects far and away from military installations, like the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station."

"I fully support Congressman Collins' proposed legislation to protect military installations from encroachment from industrial wind turbine projects," said James Simon, Yates town supervisor. "The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station has a positive economic impact on the Town of Yates. We are fortunate that the skies above the Town of Yates not only have unrestricted airspace for low-flying military aircraft and drones, but also provide unimpeded radar coverage for national defense."

"We are grateful to Congressman Collins for taking the initiative to propose legislation that will work to protect the future of our air base and the thousands of families and workers who rely on its continued operation," said Pamela Atwater, president of Save Ontario Shores. "Save Ontario Shores pledges its full support to this proposed legislation and we look forward to its enactment.

Save Ontario Shores is a local group that was formed to address the concerns relating to the health, safety and welfare of Town of Yates and Town of Somerset taxpayers and residents, in regards to the Lighthouse Wind project being proposed by Apex Clean Energy."

Collins has previously taken steps to address this issue. Last December, he authored a letter to the Department of Defense and Federal Aviation Administration officials expressing concern about a proposed wind turbine project along the Lake Ontario Shoreline. Full text of the letter can be read here: https://chriscollins.house.gov/sites/chriscollins.house.gov/files/APEX%20Energy.pdf.

In an email response, Cat Strumlauf, public affairs associate with Apex Clean Energy Inc., said, "Apex Clean Energy takes the safety and readiness of our military very seriously, and we work closely with the Department of Defense and its services to ensure our wind energy facilities do not adversely impact military missions. Related to Lighthouse Wind, we have been consulting with the Department of Defense and Niagara Falls Air Force Reserve Station regularly to ensure that any concerns regarding the base's operations are resolved before the project is built. Lighthouse Wind has received a letter directly from the DoD Siting Clearinghouse stating the project is 'unlikely to impact military testing or training operations in the area.' More recently, a top official at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (NFARS), confirmed that the base's new KC-135 mission makes the wind turbines a nonissue for the base. According to the military's own experts, Niagara County residents can be confident that Lighthouse Wind will pose no current or projected mission impact on Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, which is more than 25 miles from the Lighthouse Wind project area.

"While Apex is expert in the development of wind energy projects, we believe it is appropriate to trust the expertise of the DoD Siting Clearinghouse, as well as that of local military experts and advisors, to assess the potential risk of wind energy projects to their own bases. We believe our professional national security experts are doing their duty and acting in the best interest of our nation, the communities in which they operate, and our armed forces.

"Any structure over 200' proposed throughout the country is required to undertake a rigorous system of review by the DoD and FAA required prior to construction. Lighthouse Wind is in the pre-application phase, and as such has not proposed specific turbine models or heights as of yet. When this final proposal is made, the DoD and FAA will have the chance to weigh in again with their approvals through these review systems."

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